DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is expanding its Sync AppLink software program to 10 models for the 2012 model year and quadrupling the size of it Sync development team over the next four years.
The AppLink software gives Sync users hands-free voice control capability for smart phone apps, the automaker said today in a statement.
Ford also said it will expand availability of rear seat inflatable seat belts to three additional vehicles beginning next summer .
The Sync AppLink will be available in the 2012 Ford Fusion, Fusion hybrid, Fiesta, F-150, F-150 SVT Raptor, Super Duty, Expedition, E-Series, Shelby GT500 and Mustang.
The feature was introduced on the 2011 Fiesta.
“We need to keep up because the customers are demanding it and because of the mobility trend in communication and the Internet. We view Sync as a platform that is viewed for easy upgrades in app development,” said Doug VanDagens, director of the automaker’s Ford Connected Services Solutions.
VanDagens said that the number of apps for Sync has grown by more than 150 percent in the last six months, and that more than 2,500 developers are interested in working with Ford to enable their app to work with Sync.
He said Ford is creating apps that are specific to the vehicle.
To help create those apps, he said the Ford Connected Services Solution Organization team will grow four-fold during the next four years, with a three -fold increase planned for the United States operations alone. The number of people to be hired was not released.
The team is composed of engineers and programmers who understand current consumer electronics technology and have a sense where it is headed, he said.
In late 2010, Ford began offering AppLink as a download at www.syncmyride.com.
At that time, the AppLink was made available to 2011 Fiesta owners for popular mobile apps such as Pandora Internet radio.
Ford also said rear seat inflatable seat belts will be available next summer on the Flex and Lincoln MKT and MKZ.
The feature was added to the option list this spring for the 2011 Explorer. Since its availability, 40 percent of retail buyers are ordering inflatable seat belts, the automaker said. The feature has a sticker price of $195.
The seat belts inflate when the front and side airbags inflate.
Srini Sundararajan, safety technical leader for research and innovation at Ford, said the primary goal of the inflatable seat belt “is to spread crash forces over a much wider area.
“As the head comes forward, the (seat belt) bag actually catches the head. It reduces neck injuries as the head comes in contact with the bag.”
The seat belt bag stays inflated for four to five seconds, he said.
The belt uses cold compressed natural gas instead of a heat-generating chemical reaction, which is used for traditional airbag systems. Once inflated, the inflated belts feel no warmer than the ambient temperature. The gas is stored in a cylinder beneath the rear seats.
The bag and the gas canister must be replaced after the bags are deployed.