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Move over OnStar: Ford Sync adds a human touch with Operator Assist

Consumer Reports News: July 12, 2011 05:38 PM

Advancements in the telematics arena are occurring at a rapid pace, led by Ford continuing to evolve its Sync-branded offerings. In its latest move, Ford is beta testing an operator-based service that moves the infotainment system closer to GM's OnStar service.

A key Sync feature has been its voice recognition, allowing drivers to issue commands and request songs from their portable devices, all without taking their hands off the wheel. Sync also already offers three years of free downloadable traffic, navigation, and information through an original vehicle owner's account. Ford is now experimenting with Operator Assist, a further level of service that allows drivers to speak with a person to locate business searches and request turn-by-turn directions.

When using Sync, drivers will now be able to speak "Operator" to connect to a live customer-service agent who can then send the information or directions back to the car. The operator can also connect the driver to the business or transfer the contact information as a text message to a cell phone.

Currently free to all Sync Services users, this expanded offering does not require additional hardware or software. Sync Services is subscription based and uses a Bluetooth-enabled phone. It can be moved from Sync-equipped car to car.

Operator Assist adds a human touch to the telematics experience, but its greatest appeal may be to assist when the request is less specific than a menu-driven voice-recognition can respond to. For instance, it can allow quick routing to a business name without going through a traditional points-of-interest navigation menu. Further, it may appeal to drivers with an accent that may be difficult for the voice-recognition system to recognize.

Updated 7/13/11

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Jeff Bartlett


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