Ford Sync Feature Spotlight: Traffic, Directions and Information (TDI)

Ford recently announced a the new Traffic, Directions and Information (TDI) app for the Ford Sync system.

From Ford’s Press Release:

SYNC TDI leverages a customer’s existing mobile phone; includes an integrated GPS receiver to connect customers to real-time turn-by-turn driving directions, traffic reports and business searches; offers extra features and applications such as favorite news, sports and weather; and provides seamless voice-control of all these functions while in the vehicle – at no subscription cost for the first three years of vehicle ownership.

This is another feather in the cap of Ford’s effort to bring low cost advanced technologies into the vehicle.  The TDI system leverages the Ford Service Delivery Network to provide access to real-time information without the need for additional and expensive hardware.  Sync users can go to the website, download the update to a USB drive and execute the update in the car.  It could only be simpler if it was over-the-air…why isn’t it OTA?

The features are all accessible through voice commands (using the Microsoft TellMe portal) to request specific information which is then sent as a text message (usually within 30-45 seconds) to the customers phone and read over the in-vehicle speakers using Sync’s text-to-speech system (a neat little way to deliver the information without distracting the driver).

Turn-by-turn directions are downloaded from Telenav and delivered over vehicle audio system (using the system’s built-in GPS receiver as the location reference for the system).  Real-time traffic information is provided by Inrix and their network of on-vehicle GPS probes.

The system can also be customized by voice commands or through the web to feature topics of interest to the driver (e.g. sports teams, weather in a particular city, a particular type of news, etc).


It’s an impressive amount of functionality for a system built around the user’s cellphone, data-over-voice technology and a platform without a screen!  As with the rest of the Sync system Ford has skipped the way OEMs are usually delivering services in favor of an opt-in feature at no cost.  Preliminary reviews about the system are mixed and there is some concern over the ability to effectively provide turn-by-turn directions without a screen.    Once again the user has the option of using the system or not, but either way it doesn’t cost them anything (which is really the key to providing an ‘ok’ service instead of a perfect one).

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