Settling in for a drive in an enhanced, upgraded vehicle will now become a regular experience for Ford owners as the American OEM delivers new features and improvements through its wireless software update technology, called Ford Power-Up.
The first software updates through Ford Power-Up began in March and were issued to F-150 and Mustang Mach-E customers in North America. New vehicles equipped with Ford Power-Up capability can identify customer preferences and vehicle issues, which Ford engineers then translate into quality and capability improvements delivered through OTA updates.
“Software updates are common across billions of connected devices but not yet for vehicles. Ford Power-Up software updates will change that by quickly bringing it to millions of people,” says Alex Purdy, Director of Business Operations and Enterprise Connectivity at Ford Motor Company. “We’ve invested in more seamless technology so updates can happen while you’re sleeping – making your next ride a better experience.”
A new, fully networked, electrical architecture and advanced tech stack create the foundation to deliver Ford’s Power-Up software updates. These quick and easy wireless upgrades enhance vehicle features, quality, experiences, capability, and convenience. Capable of updating the majority of Ford’s computer modules (more than 110 on higher end models) these upgrades can help improve the user experience and may help reduce the need for repair trips.
Many of these updates will be virtually invisible to customers, enabled by a platform that installs much of the new software in the background. Many updates require little to no action by the customer courtesy of Ford’s SYNC® 4 infotainment system that keeps current software running until the new version is ready to go. For updates that require system reboots, Ford prompts customers to schedule them at convenient times, such as overnight. Some updates can be made in less than two minutes, while others may take longer. Unlike updates for consumer electronics devices, which can come at inconvenient times, vehicle owners may not even notice that the installation has occurred until the vehicle is started.
Through this new technology, Ford is planning, what is expected, to be the industry’s broadest rollout of the embedded Alexa hands-free experience to date. Customers receiving this update will also be offered complimentary connectivity to the virtual personal assistant for up to three years. This year alone, the Alexa voice command functionality experienced in the home will be wired to 700,000 Ford vehicles in the U.S. and Canada, followed by millions more over the next few years.
As part of a new strategic engagement between Amazon and Ford, the two companies plan to work together to deliver enhanced features, and new commercial services, over the next six years. This includes exploring the development of custom Alexa skills for Ford commercial vehicles, using the power of Alexa’s AI technology to help business owners and fleet managers stay in touch with their teams and increase productivity.
“We’re excited to work with Amazon to bring powerful new AI-enabled experiences to Ford customers,” says Purdy. “We believe in the power of teaming up with other innovators. Bringing Ford’s vehicle know-how together with Amazon’s technology expertise will deliver in-vehicle capabilities that help our retail customers travel more enjoyably and with ease, while helping our commercial customers operate more profitably.”
Alexa will initially be delivered through Ford’s Power-Up software updates beginning this fall. The first vehicles to receive the feature will be the Bronco®, Edge, F-150, Mustang Mach-E and Super Duty® models in the U.S. and Canada with SYNC 4 Technology (other regions to follow).
“Democratizing technology and putting it within reach of millions of customers has been a part of Ford’s DNA dating back to the Model T, and our new collaboration is a continuation of that legacy,” says Ned Curic, Vice President of Alexa Automotive. “We can’t wait for Ford customers to experience the best of what Alexa and voice AI can do while on the road – including new features and capabilities that will be delivered seamlessly through future over-the-air software updates. We love the vote of confidence from Ford to deepen our work together and continue making the driving experience more connected, entertaining, and productive.”
The support of Alexa on SYNC 4 represents the latest collaboration between Ford and Amazon. Ford first brought Alexa into its vehicles in 2017. The app launched with connected vehicle skills, and then added in-vehicle capabilities through the SYNC AppLink smartphone app. The app is still available, but is no longer required for the new, more seamless, capability. More information about how Ford customers can set up an Alexa account will be shared closer to launch.
Inside the vehicle, Ford customers can ask Alexa to control smart home devices, place calls, locate parking, and more. Alexa capabilities delivered through SYNC 4 Technology provide the convenience of hands-free, voice-initiated, interactions – minimizing the need for drivers to interact with screens – helping them keep their hands on the wheel, and their eyes on the road. Customers can interact with their vehicles naturally and ask, “Alexa, find the closest gas station”, “Alexa, play my road trip playlist”, or “Alexa, call Mom.”
Through Alexa, customers will be also able to access the benefits of Amazon’s world-class voice AI and intelligent features – both in and out of the vehicle. Combined with the FordPass skill for Alexa – which customers can use to control vehicle functions (such as start/stop engine, lock and unlock doors, check vehicle range or tire pressure) from the comfort of their home – Ford is bringing smart homes and connected vehicles closer together.
Over the last two months, 2021 F-150 and Mustang Mach-E customers have begun receiving Ford Power-Up enhancements. Mustang Mach-E customers in North America and Europe will soon receive the Sketch app – also referred to as Notes in vehicle menus – for touchscreen drawing, and simple gaming. The software updates will quickly expand to nearly all vehicle computer modules, enabling an update to Ford’s Co-Pilot360™ Technology that adds BlueCruise hands-free highway driving to Intelligent Cruise Control. This will be delivered to properly equipped F-150 and Mustang Mach-E vehicles with additional software purchase later this year.
The company’s move to modernize its quality processes is already delivering results. Ford engineers used connected vehicle data to quickly identify issues with F-150 zone lighting. The OEM also plans to address an issue with Android Auto connectivity on the F-150 and Mustang Mach-E by June.
Customers will also continue to receive new enhancements over the coming weeks. For example, Remote Vehicle Setup and Trip Logslet new Mustang Mach-E customers use the FordPass™ app to set up profile preferences, including radio presets, in the cloud to be sent to vehicles, while Trip Logs track battery usage and other driving details on each trip. Users of Mach-E and F150 models equipped with Sync 4A will see upgrades that enhance some of the core features of their vehicles.
Enhancements to Navigation automatically make helpful destination suggestions. Furthermore, new cloud connectivity combines conversational voice command recognition with internet-based search for accurate results. Apple CarPlayÒ compatibilityenhancement will display turn-by-turn navigation in the vehicle’s instrument cluster, and enhancements to the digital owner’s manual will give the paperless product guides even more value.