Ford is finally ready to start rolling out over-the-air (OTA) software updates to its vehicles on a large scale. While Tesla and other automakers have been offering OTA updates for years, Ford has only delivered its first software updates to select Ford F-150 and Mustang Mach-E customers this year. But the automaker says it is ready to rapidly increase the number of vehicles capable of receiving software updates, aiming to produce 33 million capable vehicles by 2028.
Ford, who likes to absurdly attach the phrase “Built Ford Tough” to its products, this time is playing cool with branding, simply calling its software updates “Ford Power Ups”. In the past two months, Ford says more than 100,000 F-150 and Mach-E customers have received their first OTA updates. And there will be more to come, including the owners of the new Ford Bronco. The automaker is preparing a major update later this year that will include Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.
With this new update, Ford owners can ask Alexa for a weather update, listen to music, find the nearest gas station, or provide directions to their favorite destinations. More than 700,000 vehicles in the United States and Canada will be eligible for the Alexa update this year, with “millions” more added in the coming years, Ford said.
This is not really new to some Ford owners. Customers with Alexa accounts have been able to mirror the smart home assistant in their cars via the mobile connection and data processor of their smartphones since 2017. This new software update, however, will “get” Alexa into the car. car operating system, allowing a more integrated user experience. And Ford is offering three years of free Alexa, after which the subscription fee will go into effect.
“This experience is decent, although it is not a north-star and frictionless experience,” said Ned Curic, vice president of Amazon Alexa Automotive, of the previous mobile version of Alexa. After the software update, Alexa will be “fully integrated” into Ford vehicles, which should make it a “more enjoyable experience” for customers, Curic added.
Ford doesn’t fully adhere to Tesla’s philosophy of offering original software updates like Mario Kart or fart sounds. But the automaker is offering an update later this year that will allow customers to draw and sketch on their vehicle’s touchscreen. Ford said it was exploring ways for customers to share their in-car designs on social media.
The updates will not only apply to the vehicle’s infotainment system. Ford said it was developing the ability to push updates for up to 110 computer modules in the vehicle.
Not all updates will be free. BlueCruise, the automaker’s “hands-free” road driving assistance system, will be available later this year to select F-150 and Mach-E customers who have purchased the relevant software updates.
It is certain that mainstream automakers have struggled to catch up with Tesla, which has long been the leader in sending live updates to its customers to change everything from its Autopilot driver assistance system to the layout and appearance of its infotainment. touch screen. The idea that a car can be updated in the same way that Apple or Samsung can upgrade or repair smartphone software has proven difficult and elusive for most automakers.
Most car dealers are wary of OTA updates for fear of being left out of the lucrative process of service and maintenance. Basically, if you can fix your car with an OTA update, you don’t need to bring it back to the dealership that often. And that means less money for them.
Ford said most updates would be “virtually invisible” to its customers and would require “little or no action.” Others will require a restart of the vehicle’s operating system which can be scheduled at the most convenient time, such as overnight.
“It’s a total reversal of the ownership model where vehicles just got old,” said Alex Purdy, chief commercial officer. “Now Fords will improve over time.”
Earlier this year, Ford announced that Google’s Android would be used to power the infotainment systems of “millions” of its cars starting in 2023. That, with the Alexa software update starting to roll out. later this year is proof that Ford is committed to “giving our customers the choice to stick with the technologies and brands they already use and love or to try something.” again, ”Purdy said.