Ford and Kia are both bringing wireless internet connection to their motor vehicles, Ford through their Sync system, and Kia through their UVO format.
Ford’s voice-controlled infotainment system is based on the Microsoft Auto software platform, now known as the Windows Embedded Auto software platform.
Sync uses Bluetooth wireless technology to provide drivers voice-controlled access to songs from music players such as iPods and enables them to make hands-free phone calls. Ford has enhanced the technology in the past few years, adding features such as access to real-time traffic directions and other information.
Since its debut in 2007, Sync has proved popular for Ford. The automaker has said it sells nearly twice as many vehicles with Sync as those without it.
Sync started on the 2008 Ford Focus and has spread throughout most of the automaker’s lineup. The company offers the system as standard equipment in the USA on Lincoln vehicles and top-of-the-line Ford and Mercury models. It is available as a US$395 option on other Ford vehicles.
Kia has become the first automaker to introduce a competitor to Ford’s system in the North American market. UVO will debut on an unnamed Kia vehicle sometime this year.
Like Sync, UVO is based on the Microsoft Auto software platform. Spokesmen for Kia and Microsoft say the Kia version will have features unique to the South Korean automaker.
Ford’s exclusive contract to develop applications using the Microsoft software expired at the end of 2008. In May of that year, Microsoft announced that Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group would develop a voice-controlled infotainment system for the North American market.
Hyundai has not announced its plans. Fiat Auto Group also uses Microsoft technology to power its infotainment service, called Blue&Me.