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Ford takes infotainment system international

Ford has launched its in-car connectivity and entertainment system internationally, promising that the first vehicles equipped with the technology will hit Europe in 2012.

The automotive giant revealed its plans February 27 ahead of the 2011 CeBIT technology show in Hannover, Germany, describing the system as "a smart and simple way to connect drivers with in-car technologies and their digital lives."

SYNC, which has been available in North American models since 2007, allows the driver to control the vehicle's technology systems such as audio and navigation using voice commands, adding communications services and in-car apps to the package last year.

Now, it will be able to understand commands in 19 languages, including English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Korean, Arabic, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese.

The new languages will debut next year with the European Ford Focus, with Ford CEO Alan Mulally expected to reveal further information during his CeBIT keynote March 1.

It's estimated that speech recognition in the mobile world will triple by 2014, with similar growth for speech recognition in vehicles, prompting something of a scramble for automakers to get their voice-enabled in-car entertainment systems onto the market.

Last week, General Motors unveiled its new infotainment package MyLink, using the same voice-control system as SYNC, provided by speech technology firm Nuance Communications.

The technology, debuting first in Chevrolet models, allowed voice control of in-vehicle apps such as Pandora internet radio and Stitcher.