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Voice commands, online apps and other high-tech surprises define tomorrow’s connected auto.

Never mind that most people can barely parallel park. Now Ford is adding digital dimensions to today’s automotive experience, including full Internet connectivity, touch-screen commands and support for downloadable software applications. Get ready for life in the fast lane. This so-called MyFord Touch technology, an extension of Ford Sync driver-connect technology, is set to arrive shortly in the 2011 Edge, 2011 Lincoln MKX and 2012 Focus models (compatible Mercury vehicles are planned, as well). Here’s how it promises to transform tomorrow’s Sunday drive:

TOUCH CONTROLS
An 8-inch dashboard display with touch-screen controls, color-coded prompts and a personalized, shortcut-laden home screen makes it easy to adjust temperature, access turn-by-turn directions, tag favorite HD radio tunes or retrieve your phone book with just a tap. A pair of customizable 4.2-inch LCD monitors, one on each side of the speedometer (controllable using five-way, steering wheel– mounted directional pads), makes browsing media simple and quickly conveys vital trip info.

SPEECH RECOGNITION
With advanced voice controls that improve existing Sync technology, vehicles can now respond to 10,000-plus voice commands, such as “Show NBA games” and “Play ‘Tik Tok’ ” by Ke$ha . Climate and radio controls are also supported, and, via voice control and the Twitter client OpenBeak, you can have Twitter updates from your personal feed read aloud to you using text-to-speech translation.

ONLINE CONNECTIVITY
Can’t go 15 minutes without checking TMZ .com for breaking news? Don’t be afraid to back away from your desk — try the built-in Wi-Fi receiver for on-demand Web access when you’re parked in a hot spot. But wait … plug a broadband modem into one of the car’s two USB 2.0 ports and the vehicle becomes a roving wireless hot spot, so passengers can surf the Web while cruising.

DOWNLOADABLE APPS
Select apps (downloadable, independently developed software applications that are compatible with the MyFord Touch technology) offer drivers added value by extending the cars’ out-of-the-box feature sets. Examples include Pandora, which lets you listen to personalized Internet radio stations; Stitcher, for customizing your own talk-radio programming; and the aforementioned OpenBeak.

DATA TRANSFER
As if the ability to save multiple drivers’ display settings, audio presets and temperature preferences via programmable keys weren’t enough, you can also export the settings to a USB drive for use in another MyFord Touch vehicle. Likewise, an SD memory-card slot allows for data/map updates, software enhancements and feature upgrades without your having to install pricey new hardware.