MWC 2012: Voice-controlled Ford SYNC is a nice bit of KITT

Jonathan Weinberg

At the Mobile World Congress expo in Barcelona, Ford has announced its SYNC technology will finally become available on the all-new B-MAX model, due out in Europe this year.

We've highlighted SYNC before on Yahoo! News as a major advance in motoring technology, but this is the first time the company has confirmed when and how you will be able to get your hands - and voice - on it.

When David Hasselhoff with his big hair and leather jacket drove KITT in the TV show, it’s true he was able to put his feet up for a nap and let the car steer itself.

Disappointingly, along with the ability to Turbo Boost, that's sorely lacking in Ford SYNC but the technology certainly takes in-car voice control up a gear.

SYNC can control your mobile phone and MP3 devices and in the case of an accident, it will automatically call the emergency services in the right language for the country, saving time, and maybe even a life.

It is activated when the airbag goes off or the fuel pump shuts down, dialling out through the driver's Bluetooth connected mobile.

As soon as you step into the car, your mobile is instantly connected with the technology built-in and for example, the car is then able to read out your text messages as you drive.

You can also use voice commands to browse audio files on an iPod or USB flash drive you've got plugged in and tell the car which ones you want it to play.

Interestingly, by having the USB port, the car is upgradeable through plugging in a dongle containing a software download that will update the computerised elements underneath the hood.

Ford hope SYNC will be used by 3.5 million people in Europe by 2015 with four million already connected to it in America.

And while it's not yet enough to set the world of driving alight and turn hands-free into hands-off the wheel, it's beginning to open the door to the kind of futuristic advances many drivers have been dreaming of for years.

Ford of Europe’s chairman and CEO, Stephen Odell, said: "The all-new B-MAX is going to be a game-changer in the European compact family vehicle segment. No other vehicle in its class offers such an attractive combination of style, versatility and technology.

"We think it will be among the most technologically advanced small cars you can buy at any price."

Ford has already announced a wealth of techno-features coming to its cars.

The new Ford Focus can have its own built-in Wi-Fi hotspot by plugging in a USB internet dongle or smartphone allowing you to log on with up to five devices.

Its MyKey, due out this year, also allows parents to limit the top speed the vehicle can be driven at when their children are at the wheel.

It can limit the level of the audio player too and only allow the stereo to work if the seatbelts are fastened.

Other car-related tech at MWC 2012 has seen Samsung team up with Toyota to launch the Samsung Car Mode app, connecting the handset to the car's infotainment system.

This is designed to deliver hands-free calls, voice interaction and text-to-speech creating a safer atmosphere when on the road.

Simon Stanford of Samsung said: "With a passion for innovation and a commitment to drive the advancement of the mobile and vehicle industry, Samsung looks forward to the shared success of this collaboration. Together, Samsung and Toyota are opening the door to the Smarter Car Era."

Renault has also joined with CoPilot to build its GPS navigation into the new Twingo.

The car's brand new Oxygen Audio system is controlled via an iPhone. Place it in the cradle and the Apple device becomes part of the car's dashboard using the e-Renault app. Users can then interact with their music, phone and navigation through a simple tap.

Unlike the Ford advance, using a smartphone at the heart of the system allows the technology to be cheaper to implement and be far more accessible to the mass market.

Klaus Kremer, of CoPilot maker ALK Technologies, acknowledged this saying: "We are very proud that CoPilot Live has been selected as navigation provider by Renault for this ground-breaking project. It’s a demonstration of how the smartphone is becoming the hub of today’s connected vehicle."