Ford's partners with Amazon and AT&T for Alexa voice commands, Wi-Fi hot spots

In addition to its announcement of the next-generation Fusion Hybrid autonomous test vehicle, Ford used the CES stage to preview a number of Sync 3 infotainment updates coming soon to its vehicles.

Sync 3 integrates Amazon’s Alexa

Ford Amazon Alexa

Ford has partnered with Amazon to offer Alexa — Amazon’s cloud-based voice service in its new models. This is an industry-first collaboration, and expands Ford’s Sync 3 Applink features considerably.

With Alexa, drivers will be able to listen to audiobooks, search and transfer local destinations to navigation, request news, play music, add items to Amazon lists, and more. From within the vehicle, Alexa can access lighting, security systems, garage doors, and other Alexa smart home devices. Within your home, you’ll be able to start or stop your Ford’s engine, lock or unlock doors, and check vehicle data.

As you’ve probably concluded by now, many of these features will require additional Alexa equipment (Echo, Echo Dot, etc), but the functionality will be built right in to Sync 3 from the factory.

“Ford and Amazon are aligned around a vision that your voice should be the primary way to interface with your favorite devices and services,” said Don Butler, executive director, Ford Connected Vehicle and Services.

Alexa integration will arrive in two phases. Later this month, Amazon devices will be connected to your car from within your home. This summer, Ford will add Alexa’s in-car voice activation features.

Ford adds Wi-Fi to Sync 3 Connect

While not innovative at this stage, in-car Wi-Fi hot spots are incredible valuable to connected drivers and passengers. Ford is ready to tap into this technology by integrating AT&T’s 4G LTE Wi-Fi in its Sync 3 Connect system.

Starting this Fall, select 2018 model Fords will offer Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices. The hot spot will also power devices up to 50 feet away – perfect for tailgating.

“Sync Connect allows travelers to stay connected and entertained on the go,” said Don Butler, executive director, Ford Connected Vehicle and Services. “The new Wi-Fi hot spot capability will allow kids to easily watch movies and listen to music, or, if you’re on the job, to quickly send emails and access the web from wherever you are.”

Sync AppLink expands features

Ford Sygic

Ford is opening its Sync AppLink, which mates with your smartphone, to new partners as a test bed for convenience features.

ExxonMobil, Samsung, DriverScore, Sygic, and Dash Radio are working on AppLink tools that will address mobile payments, wearables, usage-based insurance, navigation, and entertainment from within Ford cars. Though many of these functions sound like potential distractions for drivers, Ford’s progress with autonomous testing suggests the automaker is envisioning greater productivity and convenience when computers take the wheel.

Ford also announced it will conduct global hackathons to introduce its developer program to software engineers — similar to how Apple offers beta operating system access.

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