Ford is doubling down on its commitment to connected cars with a range of improvements to its vehicles, including the expansion of apps available on its SYNC platform and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Google's Android Auto platform.
The addition of CarPlay and Android Auto to SYNC 3 vehicles comes on the eve of the 2016 CES in Las Vegas, which officially kicks off on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
The latest-generation system, SYNC 3, features upgraded hardware and software for faster performance, more conversational voice recognition, a smartphone-like touchscreen, and easier-to-understand graphical interface.
Android Auto provides information, including Google Maps, Google Play Music, and other apps that are projected onto the SYNC screen. The process allows for integration of the smartphone into the car. Google voice search answers any questions customers may have also while driving.
CarPlay, which is compatible with Apple's iPhone 5 and later models, works by plugging in the iPhone through a USB outlet. The CarPlay interface then appears on the touch screen.
In addition, CarPlay features Siri voice control. It integrates an iPhone with the car's built-in display and controls.
Ford is making CarPlay and Android Auto available on all 2017 vehicles equipped with SYNC 3, starting with the Ford Escape.
The company noted owners of 2016 vehicles equipped with SYNC 3 will have an opportunity to upgrade later in the year.
In addition, upgraded SYNC Connect technology powered by 4G LTE gives owners the ability to remotely access features of their car, meaning owners can program a remote start, unlock doors, check the fuel level, or locate a parked vehicle through their smartphone.
AppLink, the SYNC feature enabling drivers to use voice-controlled smartphone apps from the driver's seat, now includes an app for AAA members in the US and CAA members in Canada.
The app uses vehicle GPS data to allow users to access fuel prices, locate fueling stations, and use the Here2there route planning feature, which includes traffic information.
With the Cityseeker app, vehicle GPS data gives drives access to restaurants, nightlife, and other attractions in more than 500 cities worldwide, while the Concur expense-report-tracking app starts clocking mileage from the odometer using vehicle data.
Each time the car is turned off, this constitutes one trip recorded in the Trace Trip Journal. At the end of the day, the journal is complete, and the driver is prompted to reconcile the day's trips.
In addition, the Eventseeker app helps users discover events that fit their interest profile based on vehicle location data. They can find out about artists playing currently near their destination.
Ford claims there are currently more than 15 million SYNC-equipped vehicles on roads around the world today and 43 million expected by 2020.
In addition, Ford is enhancing AppLink capabilities for developers with a Send Location feature, which allows an app to integrate directly with the vehicle navigation system to provide seamless operation without the user having to touch his or her phone.
Debuting on location-based service app Glympse, the vehicle automatically recognizes if a driver is actively sharing the real-time location through the app, then SYNC AppLink will ask if the driver would like to be routed to that destination. The driver can then press "Yes" to start turn-by-turn navigation.
**Elite 100 2016: DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JAN. 15, 2016** There's still time to be a part of the prestigious InformationWeek Elite 100! Submit your company's application by Jan. 15, 2016. You'll find instructions and a submission form here: InformationWeek's Elite 100 2016.