Ford follows GM with in-car live operators

Ford is to trial a live operator assistance programe for users of its SYNC in-car telematics survey, bringing it into direct competition between General Motors' OnStar service.

The July 11 announcement eliminates one of the key differences between SYNC and OnStar, with the former set to offer the live operator assistance for drivers who need help which has been a feature of OnStar for some time.

It means customers will be able to talk directly to a live operator from behind the wheel, to ask them questions about directions or directory enquiries listings for businesses.

At first, queries will be routed through an automated voice recognition system, Ford said, before being routed through to the "operator assist" service if the user makes a request the system cannot identify.

The live operator can then send a route directly to the vehicle's navigation system, directly connect the car's telephone to the number or send a text message with the address and telephone number details to the user's cellphone.

The system is currently being trialled and is available free for registered users of SYNC services in the US, before a long-term decision on its future is taken in the fall, at which point reports suggest it will be priced at $60 annually.

Last month, a survey by consumer analyst JD Power and Company suggested that customers were becoming frustrated with complicated in-car technology solutions.

Automakers, at least in the US, certainly seem to be listening - on top of Ford's announcement, Infiniti said July 11 that it will offer a free concierge service for buyers of its vehicles, which can be used in and outside of the car.

The "Infiniti Personal Assistant" will be free for four years to help with everything from directions to weather forecasts, movie times to stock market information.

http://www.ford.com/sync
http:www.infiniti.com

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