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Ford Study: Sync Reduces Driver Distraction

2/06/2009 10:25:00 AM Eastern

Dearborn, Mich. — Ford said its Sync radios reduce driver distraction compared to using MP3 players and other devices while on the road, according to research conducted by Ford.

The Sync is a voice-controlled car radio that also uses voice commands to call up music on devices that link to the car radio, such as iPods or cellphones. 

The study participants spent an average of 25 seconds with their eyes off the road to select a song on an MP3 player compared with two seconds to perform the same task via the Sync.

The study included 25 regular Sync users who were tested using a driving simulator. The participants were asked to dial a number on their cellphones and retrieve a name from their cellphones’ phonebooks and other tasks. Ford then measured any deviation in their lane position, speed changes plus eyes-off-the-road time.

Ford said its voice interface reduced distraction. Reading a text message on a handheld phone typically required 11 seconds of eyes off the road compared to 2 seconds with the Sync, which “reads aloud” text messages from a cellphone. Drivers also wandered over their lane lines in more than 30 percent of the trials when trying to search for song and artist information or other tasks compared to zero percent using the Sync, Ford said.

Another study by the U.S. Department of Transportation followed 109 drivers for one year and found that manually using a handheld device while driving was almost three times riskier than normal driving. The study found that just talking or listening on the phone while driving was no riskier than normal driving, said Ford.

Ford will also add to its Sync starting this spring, offering turn-by-turn directions, traffic, weather and other updates that are issued by the Sync system and requested by the drive via voice (with no map screen). The service will be free for three years but requires the user have a compatible Bluetooth phone and a data plan.

These new Sync radios will be available on nearly all 2010 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models.

 Ford expects to sell 1 million Sync radios by the third quarter. The product was first offered in the fall of 2007.

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