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Dated: 08 March 2011

Drivers Set to Control Cars via Voice Commands?


A lot of motorists form special bonds with their car. Many give them names, talk to them, shout at them and even encourage them – “Come on Boudicca you can make it!”

So the news that Ford are working on a device, along with the clever folks at Microsoft, which will turn our mute four-wheeled friends into intelligent and talkative travelling companions, is very intriguing.

At present the makers of this new system, named Sync, are confidently claiming that the finished article will be capable of understanding in the region of 10,000 commands and in 19 different languages.

Set to be fully integrated with the vehicle, motorists will be able to use the Sync System to control their audio system, satellite navigation (which is a fantastic piece of news for anyone who has been driven to the edge of insanity whilst entering every letter of an address manually) and even their telephone through the power of speech.

Voice commands in cars are not necessarily new. For a few years luxury cars, such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW, have come with a basic voice command system instead. However, Sync is set to blow these systems out the water thanks to its level of technological sophistication – if Ford is to be believed.

Perhaps the most exciting piece of news is that the Sync System will not only be available on “top of the range” models.  At a recent technology conference in Hanover, Germany, Ford announced that the Sync System will be available on their popular model, the Ford Focus.

The Potential

Currently, the hype seems to hint that once the system launches, the potential of what it could be capable of is massive.

For example, by connecting with a car’s computer, not only could the system inform you of how much petrol you currently have left, it will be able to locate the nearest petrol stations – or even tell you how far away the cheapest source of petrol is (something which would be incredibly desirable for many cash-strapped motorists).

Ford claims that the system will also help to reduce accidents. By using voice commands, the driver will no longer need to manually change tracks or radio station – something which Ford claims can distract a driver for 25 seconds.

In the case of a road traffic accident, Ford also claim that they system will be able to locate exactly where it is and automatically call the emergency services for help.

Tyre Safety

We would be as bold to assume that in the future the system may even be capable of interacting with a car’s tyre pressure monitor. If this was a feature, the safety implications are massive.

The awareness of tyre safety has improved over the past decade, however the number of accidents that still take place due to bald or dangerously under inflated tyres is very worrying. If your car was able to verbally make you aware that your tyres were nearing the end of their life, this could help to save lives.

Will Accents Be A Problem?

Despite all these potential positives, the new device does have its critics. For example there has been a number of people question the ability of the system to recognise the various dialects and accents that every country contains.

In response to this, Ford has claimed that Sync will be able to cope with regional accents, but the critics are concerned that if a driver is concentrating on talking clearly, this could become a distraction.

At present, much of the information available on the Sync System is claims, theories and marketing propaganda. Most of which won’t be able to be fully understood until the system is launched next year. However, if the Sync System does deliver everything that Ford says it will, then having a chat with your car could very well be the future of motoring.

NB: Are you impressed we managed to go a whole article on the subject of talking cars without referencing KITT?

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