Ford is updating a large number of 2016 model year cars equipped with SYNC 3 infotainment software, adding Android Auto and CarPlay to the vehicles with a free, over-the-air update via Wi-Fi, or using either USB or going through their dealer. The upgrade will be available for around 800,000 vehicles in total, giving a huge number of Ford car owners the chance to get big infotainment improvements without having to buy a newer model car.
The OTA update option is also a big step for Ford – it’s the company’s first for software, and it’s one of the major reasons that Ford recently hired around 400 new mobile smartphone engineers, the company tells me.
For CarPlay, users will still also need to upgrade their vehicle’s USB hub to make this work (which will also incur a dealer visit and a cost), but for those on Android, all that’s required is a simple software installation. The USB install method is also faster, but the Wi-Fi update option is the start of the company’s efforts to really increase its OTA update program, which will be used for security improvements as well as infotainment bumps.
Even with a dealer visit and hardware upgrade for CarPlay, this sounds like a worthwhile thing for 2016 vehicle owners to do. CarPlay and Android Auto are huge upgrades vs. most in-car software, offering navigation and entertainment options that follow you from your phone to your car.
Retroactively offering this kind of thing to car owners is a definite change in tone for car makers, since they typically use these kinds of things as incentives to get people interested in vehicle model updates. But as data becomes increasingly important to automakers as a business, it makes sense to encourage greater in-car use of devices.