Over-the-air software updates were previously the exclusive domain of Tesla, but now Ford is using them to add new features to existing vehicles.
The Blue Oval recently jumped on the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto bandwagon, adding the smartphone interfaces to 2017 models. But now Ford is going back and adding both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to 2016 models equipped with the Sync 3 infotainment system. Customers can get the update over the air, as well as by downloading it to a flash drive, or taking their cars to dealerships to have things set up.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow drivers to access certain smartphone functions using a car’s built-in infotainment controls, which is supposed to cut down on distraction and streamline the user interface. Ford began rolling out Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration early last year, when its first 2017 models hit showrooms. It now offers the systems on all 2017 cars and light trucks, plus the 2017 Super Duty heavy-duty truck.
Ford says this is the first update for one of its Sync infotainment systems available through an over-the-air Wi-Fi connection. Previous updates were usually distributed via flash drives that could be plugged into vehicles, or done at dealerships. The latter two options are still available for this update.
Owners preferring to do the update wirelessly just need to enable automatic updates, and connect to Wi-Fi. The car doesn’t have to be left running, as long as the Wi-Fi connection is enabled before turning it off.
As cars grow more reliant on software, over-the-air updates will likely become more important in bridging the gaps between the redesigns and midcycle refreshes that focus on hardware like powertrains and bodywork. Automakers seem determined to make their cars an extension of drivers’ smartphones, and to do that, the software will have to keep pace with updates for smartphone operating systems and apps.
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