Ford's New Connected-Car Services To Include Over-the-Air Updates

DEARBORN, Michigan Ford and Microsoft on Tuesday announced a major expansion of the automaker's connected-car services, including the ability to send vehicle updates over the air.

In effect, a consumer can sleep while the car is updated wirelessly with new technology as soon as it becomes available. The approach is similar to over-the-air updates for smartphones.

"Starting later this year, the Service Delivery Network will first enable over-the-air software updates for Sync 3," the automaker's infotainment system, Ford said.

Ford has not divulged the details of Sync 3, but it is expected to feature new compatibility for smartphones and an improved user interface. Sync 3 launches this summer on some 2016 model year Ford vehicles. Ford has not said which vehicles will be the first to get Sync 3.

The optional system will be rolled out to other Ford vehicles by the end of the 2016 calendar year.

Ford spokesman Alan Hall explained how the new cloud-based service will work in a phone conversation with Edmunds.

"What's unique about this is that it's not a feature that's dependent on a subscription," Hall said. "Your car is parked in your garage and it's able to access your home's Wi-Fi network through a Wi-Fi receiver and check to see if there is a software update. It then downloads and installs it into the car. When you turn on your car in the morning, you have an improved experience."

Previously, consumers had to retrieve updated software from their computer onto a USB stick and then download it into the car.

The optional Sync 3 system replaces MyFord Touch.

The new Ford Service Delivery Network is powered by Microsoft Azure.

The Service Delivery Network will provide expanded availability of MyFord and MyLincoln Mobile connected services with features like scheduled remote start, vehicle finder and vehicle status, including fuel level and tire pressure, Ford said.

The new technology deal with Microsoft, one of Ford's early tech partners, paves the way for "vehicle ownership and user experiences of the future," Ford said.

"This is just another way to make it easy for consumers to own our vehicles and keep them up to date," Hall said.

Edmunds says: This is just the start of a new setup with lots of possibilities for consumers and dealers, including the future ability to remotely diagnose mechanical problems and add other connectivity-related services.

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