If a love of languages is a prerequisite for a speech systems lead engineer, then Brigitte Richardson certainly qualifies. She actively speaks four languages – English, French, German and Croatian – and as part of her work on Ford SYNC voice controls, Richardson is constantly learning the nuances of a fifth: “Car.”
A member of the talented team advancing Ford voice controls, Richardson is constantly exploring the ways people use language during interactions with their Ford vehicles. With the advent of the latest version of SYNC, and its expanded role behind the new MyFord driver connect technology, her work helps the company advance one of its top priorities.
“It is my job to be sure that Ford is leading the industry in voice control,” explains Richardson. “The key is implementing voice control technology in a manner that our customers find useful – even essential – in accomplishing their daily tasks.”
Since Richardson and her team members are responsible for the concept, design and implementation of voice recognition and speech systems in Ford vehicles, much of her job entails studying the nuances of speech and the many ways in which Ford drivers from around the country – and around the world – request things from their cars. The global nature of SYNC is just one aspect of the job that keeps Richardson on her toes.
“My interest in languages is just one thing that makes my current job very interesting and relevant to me,” said Richardson. “It also helps that I get to work with the some of the smartest and most respected people from around the world in this position.”
A Ford lineage
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Richardson’s father is a Ford retiree, and she’s married to a fourth-generation Ford employee. The connection with Ford, both past and present, means the company and its vehicles regularly find their way into family conversations.
“Both of my husband’s grandfathers and his father retired from Ford, my father is a Ford retiree, and we both work for Ford,” said Richardson. “Whether we see his family or mine, the subject of Ford is nearly guaranteed to come up, so it’s really a family dedication to the company.”
Thanks to her father’s job, Richardson was able to spend time inside the unique world of auto factories as a youngster. It was an experience that left a lasting impression on her, and would make any car enthusiast jealous.
“Growing up, my dad would take me on tours of the engine assembly plant where he worked,” she recalled, “especially if new automation had just arrived or new robots had been installed on the engine assembly line. I even remember my dad taking us all to the plant as young children to watch from the parking lot as new tooling arrived via military transport helicopter.”
Ironically, while an engineering student at GMI Engineering and Management Institute (now Kettering University), Richardson worked a co-op program at the same Essex Engine Plant in Windsor that she toured as a child.
Now with a child of her own, Richardson and her family continue to enjoy the unique combination of activities available in southeast Michigan and Ontario.
“Having our families nearby is the best thing about living in the area,” she says. “Michigan is a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors in all four seasons. I can’t imagine living in a place where you can’t go skating on local lakes and rivers or build an ice rink in your backyard like we did growing up.”
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.