Ford made a splash at CES last year with its new Sync system, developed on Microsoft's automotive software. This year, Ford continues its push into CES with an announcement about the next generation of Sync, along with demonstrations of its new navigation system. The new Sync sports two key features: 911 Assist and Vehicle Health Reports. With 911 Assist, Sync can detect when airbags are deployed, in which case it will use a Bluetooth-connected cell phone to automatically place a 911 call. When it makes the call, it plays a brief, prerecorded message, after which the occupants can give details of the accident to the 911 operator. If the occupants are unable to talk, emergency responders can locate the car through cell phone triangulation or GPS, if the phone has a chip. We spoke with Derrick Kuzak, Ford's vice president of Global Product Development, about the new features, and he emphasized that, unlike similar services from OnStar, 911 Assist doesn't require a subscription other than your cell phone service.
Sync's other new feature, Vehicle Health Reports, analyzes the condition of your car, using the canbus port to detect any anomalous engine behavior, much the same way a mechanic would. Once it generates a report, it uses your Bluetooth-connected phone to dial an 800 number and send the data to the Sync Web site (http://www.syncmyride.com). Once uploaded, you can look for issues and recommended maintenance. Both new features will be available later this year. Ford's Kuzak pointed out that these new features are software upgrades, so people who buy Sync-equipped cars before the new features are available can just bring their cars to a dealer and get an update.