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Ford Mustang learned Chinese – why was it so important and yet so difficult?

Posted March 12, 2017

Learning a new language is very difficult, especially when you are a car. But Ford Mustang had to learn recognize Chinese handwriting, because it is the most popular sports coupe in the country. This is quite interesting, because of how challenging this was.

Ford Mustang will finally recognize complex Mandarin Chinese handwriting. Image credit:

Ford knows a thing or two about building cars and everyone knows how important China is for automotive companies. But still, Ford cars could not read Chinese handwriting typed directly on the touchscreen. Phonetic alphabet had to be used, which was rather slow and not really comfortable. Now Ford Mustang can read Mandarin Chinese handwriting, as well as understand voice commands in this language. But why was it so difficult for the car’s infotainment system to understand Chinese writing?

Well, a simple answer is that Chinese handwriting is far more complex than English one. Furthermore, some symbols are very similar to each other and thus car has to predict what the person is trying to say to make an accurate judgement of what symbols are being drawn on the screen. Drivers enjoy the ability to type in destination and should be able to do so in their own language.

However, because of how different handwriting is, Chinese version of Ford’s SYNC 3 system cannot be a simple translation. Fisher Xu, SYNC Supervisor for Ford Asia Pacific, pointed out another difference that Ford had to pay attention to: “when you talk to a friend in China and they ask where you are, they’re really looking for a building name or a point of interest, not a street number. That’s probably different to other parts of the world, and SYNC 3 is smart enough to know this local preference, seamlessly”.

There are more than 2,500 commonly used characters in the Chinese language and a wide range of different writing styles and habits. Vehicle employs complex automatic association technology, based on a large database of characters, and even more complex search algorithm to accurately predict what the driver is trying to type. The system will manage awkward writing angles too, so drivers of Ford Mustang muscle car in China will finally enjoy this comfort that the rest of the world had for quite some time.

And satisfaction of drivers is very important. Chinese automotive market is going to grow even more in the coming years, so everyone wants to take a big piece of it. Chinese automotive companies will be more localized so western brands will have to make such efforts, as language recognition and tailored driving experience, in order to stay in the market.


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