Ford upgrades links to iPhones and Android phones

Only robots can handle these roads
Only robots can handle these roads

Ford's Sync is about to become a lot more useful.

Ford has announced a bevy of new features for its Sync 3, an infotainment system that allows drivers to use voice prompts to make phone calls, set GPS systems or play their favorite music.

Among the features unveiled at the CES tech expo is the ability to more easily connect phones running Google and Apple operating systems.

Drivers with iPhones will be able to access to maps, messages, music and other phone features through Siri voice control or the car's touch screen. Android users will be have easier access to Google voice search, Google Maps and Google Play Music.

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Early versions of the pioneering Sync system, first introduced in 2007, proved to be more promise than reality. Customer complaints about the difficulty of using the system caused Ford's customer satisfaction scores to fall sharply. Ford dumped the Microsoft software which had been used to power Sync and announced a year ago it would switch to an operating system from BlackBerry (BBRY).

Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL) have also developed their own in-car systems. The Sync system can make phone calls on both of those operating systems, but it won't be able to use those other features until this upgrade is in place.

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Ford (F) will also offer a new range of apps on Sync, including one for AAA members, one from Concur that will allow business people to track their travel mileage and download it directly into a expense report. Other apps will allow drivers to use their smartphones to remote start their cars, unlock doors, check fuel level or locate a parked vehicle.

The upgrades will be available later this year on Ford's 2017 models. Owners of 2016 vehicles equipped with Sync 3 will have an opportunity to upgrade before the end of the year.

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