Ford Motor Company is using new technology to reduce the number of crashes caused by distracted drivers. The auto manufacturer says it’s expanding its SYNC technology with new features to give drivers alternatives to hand-held texting and keep them more focused on the road. The features can block incoming phone calls and text messages and limit other in-car technologies that could tempt drivers to take their eyes off the road.
Along with Ford’s SYNC text message readback feature which can read incoming text messages out loud a "Do Not Disturb" button allows drivers to decide the level of connectivity and communications they want to manage while in the car. Ford is also taking the step to "lock out" capabilities that aren’t relevant to the task of driving while the vehicle is in motion, the company says.
The new 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX will be first to offer the "Do Not Disturb" button. This feature blocks incoming phone calls or text messages from a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone paired with SYNC. It diverts calls into voicemail and saves text messages on the device for later viewing. Unlike turning the phone off, however, drivers can still make voice-activated outgoing phone calls, and the SYNC 911 Assist feature can make a call to 911 in case of an emergency.
In addition, Ford says it’s continuing to limit access to a variety of communication features while the vehicle is in motion, encouraging drivers to use voice commands if they wish to access the function. The automaker is also locking out or limiting content and capabilities of MyFord Touch that aren’t related to the task of driving when the vehicle is in motion, including:
Any action that requires typing on a keypad (e.g. typing a navigation destination, editing information).
Limiting lists of navigation and phone choices that the user can view to fewer entries (e.g. phone contacts, recent phone call entries).
Screens with information not intended to be used by the driver while driving such as point-of-interest reviews and ratings plus SIRIUS Travel Link sports scores, movie listings and ski conditions.
Specific functions that are locked out when the vehicle is in motion include: cell phone, pairing a Bluetooth-capable phone, manually adding individual contacts into the phonebook, viewing received text messages on screen, WiFi connectivity, Web browsing on the vehicle screen, video/photos/graphics, playing video, album cover art and phonebook photo browsing, editing photos, editing the screen’s wallpaper or adding a new one, navigation, and destination entry by touch screen keyboard input (voice entry is permissible).
"Text messaging has become the default communications method for consumers of all ages," said John Schneider, chief engineer, Ford multimedia and infotainment engineering. "The power of SYNC voice control combined with Ford’s latest connectivity improvements will reduce the temptation to pick up the phone and take your eyes off the road, providing a safer solution for the use of mobile devices in the car."