Ford Brings Siri Eyes-Free To 5 Million SYNC-Enabled Vehicles

The first thing we teach new drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Solid advice, albeit increasingly challenging with all these newfangled technologies at our disposable, including in-vehicle luxuries. To help drivers from becoming distracted with technology, Ford is pushing out a software update that will add Siri Eyes-Free functionality to more than 5 million SYNC-equipped vehicles.

Siri Eyes-Free allows drivers to communicate with Apple's digital assistant by long-pressing the voice recognition button on the steering wheel. It's equivalent to holding down the home button on iPhone and iPad devices to wake Siri up, and once awoken in SYNC-enabled vehicles, drivers can use their voice for an assortment of tasks, such as making phone calls, looking up phone numbers, setting reminders or alarms, inquiring about the weather, playing music, getting directions, sending or reading text messages, and so forth.

Ford SYNC Siri Eyes-Free

"SYNC, Ford’s entertainment and communications system, was designed to be flexible and updatable, just like other mobile technologies, so our customers are able to get the most out of their smartphones while behind the wheel," said Sherif Marakby, director, Ford Electronics and Electrical Systems Engineering. "Siri Eyes-Free is another great voice-activated feature that not only adds convenience but helps our customers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel."

The software update applies to all vehicles equipped with the second generation of SYNC, which is called MyFord Touch in North America. Model vehicles with MyFord Touch range in year from 2011 to 2016.

Whether or not this will lead to safer drivers remains to be seen. Recent research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that motorists can remain distracted for nearly half a minute after using voice commands.

"The massive increase in voice-activated technologies in cars and phones represents a growing safety problem for drivers," said Marshall Doney, AAA's President and CEO. "We are concerned that these new systems may invite driver distraction, even as overwhelming scientific evidence concludes that hands-free is not risk free."

It's not the only study that calls into question the use of hands-free technologies. A study conducted by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute compared voice-to-text and manual texting in real-world driving environments. In both cases, the study found that drivers took around twice as long to react to roadway hazards compared to no texting at all.