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Voice-activated Fords to debut in Europe

Select Ford models in Europe will use speech technology to control cars' phone, navigation, and entertainment systems.


More good news for those of us who have been forced to divide our attention between the road and what seems like an ever-increasing number of gadgets and other in-car distractions: automotive voice-activation technology is becoming more widespread.

On Thursday, U.S.-based company Nuance announced that it will be putting its text-to-speech technology in select new Ford models in Europe. The system powers Ford's "Human Machine Interface" (HMI), which allows drivers to make calls, enter destinations into the navigation system, control the audio system, and change the inside temperature using simple voice commands.

For example, a driver can change the radio station simply by saying the frequency number, or in some cases, saying the call letters. And the climate control system can be adjusted by simply saying "warmer" or "cooler." The HMI system can read and understand English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Ford already uses its voice-activated Sync system, powered by Microsoft, on select models here in the U.S.

The European HMI system will be implemented on the Ford Focus and the Focus C-MAX multipurpose vehicles beginning next month. Other European Ford models, including the Galaxy and S-MAX multipurpose vehicles, along with the Mondeo full-size sedan, will get the technology shortly thereafter.