- Feature is part of voice-activated technology, Sync, installed on 2012 models
- Sync allows users to respond to texts with pre-written messages
- There is tons of data showing that texting and driving at the same time is bad idea
Ford is installing a feature in its new vehicles -- and many of its older ones -- that can read text messages out loud.
The feature, which is intended to reduce texting while driving, is part of Ford's voice-activated technology, Sync, and is already installed on all model 2012 Ford vehicles with the exception of the Ranger.
Using a Bluetooth connection, it syncs with phones and alerts users when they receive text messages, reads them out loud and allows users to respond with a selection of standard pre-written messages without taking their hands off the wheel.
On Tuesday, it will be made available as an upgrade to Sync vehicles that are model 2010 or later. In order to install the capability, owners can download the upgrade from the Ford Sync site onto a USB drive along with print-out instructions. Older Ford vehicles that have Sync will soon be able to make the update as well, says supervisor of Sync product development Mark Porter.
We shouldn't need data to convince us that texting and driving at the same time is a bad idea. But we have tons of it.
A 2009 study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that texting while driving increased the risk of a truck getting into an accident by more than 23 times. A 2007 Clemson University study found that text messaging and iPods caused drivers to leave their lane 10% more often during driving simulations.
And if you have doubts that texting is detrimental to driving performance, you can prove it to yourself with an interactive game that The New York Times has created to make the point.
So in an age when most car companies have a Bluetooth integration features, why isn't text-to-voice already a standard option?
Several apps such as DriveSafe.ly and SMS Replier have created popular solutions, but only a few vehicle manufacturers such as Ford and BMW have integrated the feature into vehicles themselves.
One factor in the slow adoption is that not many phones integrate with text-to-speech features like Ford's. So far BlackBerry phones are the most notable devices compatible with the technology required. Some Android phones also support the technology. iPhones do not.
Porter says that he thinks more phone and vehicle manufacturers will soon start to add it.
"It's very similar to a couple of years ago when Bluetooth devices were just coming out and had a hands-free profile [for integrating with vehicles] and few phones supported it," he says. "Now it's almost standard."