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Automaker launches voice control service for smartphones

Ford has released a new application that allows drivers to control the apps on their smartphones using voice commands while in their vehicles.

The free SYNC AppLink service will be debuted on the 2011 Ford Fiesta and can be installed into the vehicle using a USB stick.

Once installed, it can connect to the Apple iPhone, Blackberry by RIM and Android-based smartphones to allow drivers to speak commands that control the apps on their handset.

To access a mobile app, drivers can press a button on their steering wheel and say "Mobile Applications", followed by the name of the app they wish to launch and use.

Using Pandora, one of the first SYNC-enabled apps, drivers can create and choose stations, bookmark songs, and give thumbs up/thumbs down commands, for example.

Twitter application OpenBeak and Stitcher will join Pandora as the first three apps available on the service (all available to download from the Apple/Android/Blackberry app stores in the coming weeks), although a Ford spokesperson confirmed that additional apps will be added soon, along with more vehicles that support the technology.

Ford intends to display the system at next year's CES, an international consumer technology tradeshow held annually in Las Vegas.

The automaker will join its competitors such as Audi, General Motors, Hyundai and Toyota, spread across three of the show's "TechZones" - the Electric Vehicle TechZone, the Safe Driver TechZone and the Location Based Services TechZone.