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With SmartLink, Ford will let you upgrade your old car to the newest tech

Why it matters to you

Ford will soon add the same connected features available on new cars to its older models.

New cars are available with an increasingly-elaborate array of tech, but that means the hardware in older cars can be rendered obsolete well before the vehicles themselves have ended their useful lives. Ford aims to solve that problem.

The new Ford SmartLink system allows owners of Ford and Lincoln vehicles from the 2010 to 2016 model years to add connectivity features that were not available when their cars were new. It’s designed for cars without the built-in modem access Ford uses to add software and features to newer vehicles.

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Developed in concert with Delphi Automotive and Verizon Telematics, SmartLink is built around a 4G LTE-enabled device that plugs into a car’s OBD II port. These ports are standard on all cars sold in the U.S., and were designed to allow a car’s computer to interface with diagnostic equipment. It’s the same port used by devices like Verizon’s Hum and the driver behavior trackers offered to customers by some insurance companies.

The plug-in device is paired with software that allows the car to access both an app suite and a web portal to interface with both smartphones and external networks. SmartLink enables remote engine start and door locking and unlocking through a smartphone, as well as a Verizon-enabled Wi-Fi hot spot that can support up to eight devices. It can also send owners “vehicle health and security alerts,” and help find a car in a crowded parking lot.

Similar features are available on certain new car models, but Ford may be the first large automaker to try to add them to older vehicles. The same goes for another SmartLink feature, the ability to schedule servicing at the local dealership. That’s likely to make Ford and Lincoln dealers happy, and they’ll also be the distribution point for the SmartLink system. Ford says the system will be available starting this summer, with pricing to be released closer to the launch date.

It will be interesting to see how many owners opt in, and whether other automakers try to follow Ford’s lead.