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Just When You Said No More Monthly Subscriptions...

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...There's one coming up that might actually pull its weight and save you time and money. At the mammoth, ever-glitzy Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Ford unveiled the Sirius Travel Link, a suite of data services delivered through the satellite radio provider's existing infrastructure that will include real-time traffic data, weather conditions, fuel prices, sports scores and schedules, and movie listings.

The service will interface fully with Ford's next-generation navigation system — to be first rolled out on the 2009 Lincoln MKS — and feature smart, dynamic navigation rerouting, around traffic congestion when possible.

There's one hitch here: the service will involve an extra, yet undisclosed monthly fee. For the comparable services offered by XM, it costs $9.95 a month for XM NavTraffic alone, or $16.94 a month with satellite radio. With a sagging economy, it's true that consumers are penny-pinching a little bit more, just as it seems nearly every little entertainment or convenience service is demanding a monthly fee. But if the traffic function works as well as the XM NavTraffic service, we think it'll be well worth the few extra bucks for gridlock commuters, delivery people, real estate agents, and just about anyone.

One thing that, fortunately, you won't have to subscribe to is the new “911 Assist” system on Ford's Sync system. Available late this calendar year, the system will allow occupants to be automatically connected to a local 911 emergency operator following airbag deployment — similar to what's been included with GM's OnStar system for several model years.

As the Sync system is designed for dealer-installed updates, the new 911 feature will also be available to customers with 2008 model-year vehicles.

None other than Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates made the announcements regarding the Sync system, which was codeveloped between Microsoft and Ford. The automaker has an exclusive on the technology until next November.

And Ford is wasting no time. The automaker now says that in 2009 there will be one million SYNC-equipped vehicles on the road. SYNC sales passed the 30,000 mark by the end of the year, and the device first started trickling into dealerships in October.

By the end of the calendar year, Ford says that about 85 percent of its model line will offer the feature. During the 2008 model year, it will become available on the Ford Flex, F-150, and F-Series Super Duty, and later, on the 2009 Ford Escape, Escape Hybrid, and Expedition and Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid. The feature will be standard on the upcoming 2009 Lincoln MKS and 2009 Lincoln Navigator.
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