Ford adding Facebook features to Sync

Ford is exploring ways to integrate Facebook into its voice-controlled Sync system.

To look up an event location on Facebook, Ford wants drivers to ask Sync for directions--and put down the phone.

Ford engineers are testing how drivers can use the Sync AppLink system to tap into Facebook with voice commands. The automaker says social integration is the next evolution for its voice-controlled Sync system, and accessing Facebook events is just one example already being developed.

In a demonstration for CNET, SyncApp Link Product Manager Julius Marchwicki had Sync announce upcoming Facebook events, his RSVP status, and the venue locations. The next steps, he said, would be to get directions to the event, call the event host, find out how many friends are attending, and even let the driver check in to a venue when he or she arrives.

"This is about extending the things that you do in your digital life," Marchwicki said. "You listen to Pandora Internet radio. You listen to iHeartRadio. You're going to use Facebook."

Ford developers came up with some early concepts after a 24-hour "hackathon" with Facebook engineers at the social-networking company's Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters. Other early concepts include listening to the same music a friend is streaming or finding a restaurant recommended by a friend. Ford details its mission to "socialize" the car in a recent blog post.

In the fight against distracted driving, the federal government is proposing guidelines to stop drivers from texting or using social networks while behind the wheel. But since there's no way to keep a phone locked away from a driver, Marchwicki says voice commands are a practical solution.

"We know that taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road is where you can get into a bad situation," Marchwicki said. "Voice in a vehicle is the natural and safe way to be able to interact with it. And having conversations with your vehicle is not too far off."

 

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