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Operators Are Standing-By for Ford Sync

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July 2011 author photo

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Ford is currently beta testing a new feature for its Sync voice-controlled infotainment system that will allow users to ask a live operator for help with turn-by-turn directions and business searches. Called "Operator Assistance," the feature lets registered users access a live operator by simply saying "operator."

Here's how it works. Since most Sync features are cloud based, meaning most of the system actually resides in remote computer systems, Ford can add features like Operator Assistance without installing any additional hardware or software in the vehicle. Ford already provides Cloud-based, on-demand, voice-activated services such as traffic updates, news, sports, weather, stock quotes and local movie listings, as well as turn-by-turn directions and business searches.

Previously, Sync users didn't talk to a real person, but rather heard from a computer with the sophisticated ability to turn data in to spoken words (known as text-to-speech). David Gersabeck, product manager, SYNC Services says, "70 percent of all Sync Services calls are for business searches and directions." So it only makes sense that's where they'd focus their live operator efforts.

If a Sync Services user says the name of an address or business the system doesn't recognize or understand, the automated Sync interface will ask the user if they want to speak to an operator. Connecting to a live operator isn't automatic, the user has to either initiate or confirm that's what they want to do.

Once the live operator confirms the business search, there are several ways to receive the information. Sync users can either receive turn-by-turn directions verbally, receive a text message with the name, address, phone number and information about the business or they can be directly connected to the business by phone. Sync Services work through a user's paired Bluetooth phone so the operator can simply make that connection without the user having to dial manually.

The reason Ford is adding real people to the Sync experience isn't so much because Sync users want to speak to a real person but because they want help completing address search functions when they misspeak or when Sync doesn't understand them.

For example, a Sync user might say "Mel's Fish Restaurant. "When the real name of the business is actually "Mel's Fish Grotto" Sync might not find it because it was said incorrectly - this is where a live person can complete the search by combining the given search terms and area with common sense. Alan Hall with Ford Communications says the update to Sync makes it that much better because, "We've now improved the success of completion by having the live operator available to notice the difference and make the proper entry into the system."

At this point, the live operator feature is free since Ford is still testing it. One company official we spoke to said that once the test period is over, the live operator service could be included in the initial three year period where currently all Sync Services are complimentary.

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Operators Are Standing-By for Ford Sync - Autotrader