Have you ever heard of Ford SYNC? In a nutshell, it's the car manufacturer's friendly version of OnStar. Up until today, the Microsoft-powered Ford SYNC service was capable of providing on-screen navigation, hands-free calling, mobile entertainment, driving efficiency data and more via its touchscreen command center. But now drivers will be able to utilize a critical new feature that will place Ford's SYNC several car lengths closer to GM's OnStar: Operator Assistance.

After several beta tests, Ford reports that this feature is finally ready to roll, enabling drivers to attain live operator assistance while searching for directions or a particular business address. Available at no extra cost for current and future owners of SYNC-equipped Ford cars, the Live Assist function does not only entail seeking help from a live operator, but several cloud-based automated voice actions are available as well, including traffic, news, sports, weather and horoscope information. Business searches and turn-by-turn directions are available via automated voice actions as well, though at any time the driver can prompt a live operator for further assistance.

According to the press release:

When a live operator assists with a business search, the user can choose to receive turn-by-turn directions to the business, receive a text message with name, address and phone number information about the business (applies to certain phone carrier networks), or be directly connected to the phone number of the business. When a live operator assists with address entry, the user can have the directions sent directly to the vehicle. When the information is sent or the user is connected to a business, a "session" has been completed.

And here's the fine print:

New customers eligible for a three-year complimentary SYNC Services account will receive 60 Operator Assist sessions. Customers with an active SYNC Services account receive a number of complimentary sessions depending on the remaining duration of their SYNC Services account:

  • Less than a year remaining, 20 complimentary sessions
  • Between one and two years remaining, 40 complimentary sessions
  • Between two and three years remaining, 60 complimentary sessions

Owners of Ford cars and trucks can go to syncmyride.com/support to:

  • Buy a one-year SYNC Services subscription for $60, which includes 20 complimentary Operator Assist sessions
  • Purchase additional Operator Assist sessions
  • View how many Operator Assist sessions are available on their account

No in-vehicle software upgrade is required. The live operator services are provided by MyAssist, a leading live assistance and telematics service company for individuals and businesses based in Stevens Point, Wis.