Ford's Sync In-Car System Adds Apple CarPlay, Android Auto

New in-vehicle apps are also being added, including AAA member services, Concur expense reporting and nearby event listing services.  

Ford Sync, in-vehicle infotainment, in-car entertainment, in-car 4G LTE, Apple CarPlay services, Android Auto, CES 2016

Ford is expanding its Sync in-vehicle infotainment systems with the addition of music services from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 4G LTE connectivity, and a host of new apps such as maps and member services from AAA and expense reporting from Concur.

The additions to Sync were unveiled by the automaker Jan. 4 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

By adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, consumers will have more choices to get the music they want to hear in their vehicles as they drive. The new apps also include Eventseeker, which lets users get information about nearby entertainment and events when they reach their destinations. Apple CarPlay gives iPhone users access to Apple Maps, Messages, Phone and Music through Siri voice control or the vehicle's touch-screen. Android Auto provides Google voice search capabilities and access to Google Maps, Google Play Music and more via steering wheel controls and the vehicle touch-screen, according to Ford.

The latest Sync Connect 4G LTE capabilities in Ford Sync provide remote start functions and allow drivers to unlock the doors or check the fuel level in their vehicles, as well as to locate a parked vehicle using a smartphone.

"Sync allows customers to bring the smartphone technology they're comfortable with into a vehicle and use it without hassle" Don Butler, executive director of Ford's connected vehicle and services division, said in a statement. "With Sync, we move at our customers' pace—making it easy for them to maintain a connected lifestyle no matter their choice of smartphone, apps or services inside and outside their vehicle."

Ford has more than 15 million vehicles on the world's roads today that are Sync-equipped, with 43 million expected by 2020, according to the company. The latest iteration of the system is Sync 3

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be available in North America starting with all 2017 vehicles equipped with Sync 3, starting with the new Ford Escape, the company said. Owners of 2016 vehicles with Sync 3 will be able to upgrade to the expanded system later in 2016.

Ford's latest AppLink feature in Sync is what will allow drivers to use voice commands to control smartphone apps under the system. The first AppLink-enabled apps will allow AAA and Canadian Auto Association members to gain access to information about fuel prices, route planning and more using GPS data, while the Concur app will allow users to track their expenses for business-related travel as they drive. The app will automatically track mileage and more information about the journey for expense reporting purposes.

The Eventseeker app will allow users to find interesting events as they travel based on their vehicle location data, while a Cityseeker app will help drivers find the best restaurants, nightlife and other attractions in more than 500 cities worldwide, according to Ford.

For drivers of Ford vehicles in China, AppLink will also have access to Tencent Chelian, a popular social media platform, as well as QQ's messaging app, music, real-time traffic conditions and streaming radio.

Apple CarPlay works with iPhone 5 and later models, while Android Auto works with Android 5.0 and higher.

Ford Sync was launched in 2007 and continues to gain new features and capabilities for Ford drivers.

In December 2014, Ford announced that it was building its then-new Sync 3 in-vehicle communications system on BlackBerry's QNX in-vehicle OS, starting with its 2016 vehicles, according to an earlier eWEEK story. The original Sync system was built atop a Microsoft platform.