Some of Ford’s SYNC 3-enabled cars are finally getting an update to match the rest of the connected car ecosystem.
The automaker’s 2016 model-year line will be eligible for an infotainment center software upgrade that will add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, giving drivers a better connection with their phones while they’re on the road. Ford announced the update in a release touting the new compatibilities, which will be available to an estimated 800,000 vehicles.
While the new integrations will undoubtedly be welcomed by 2016 Ford owners, they’re not the real news here.
The more notable detail is in the way the rollout of SYNC 3 version 2.2 will be handled. For the first time ever, Ford will offer a SYNC upgrade via Wi-Fi in the form of an over-the-air (OTA) software update.
The automaker has been tweaking its Sync platform since 2009, but it’s never issued new software via OTA, which is a much easier, passive method for Ford owners. The update is also available through a USB upload or a manual update at a dealership — but why would you do that if the car’s system can update “in the background while [drivers] continue using their vehicles,” as Ford Connected Vehicle and Services executive director Don Butler described the process in the release.
Other automakers depend on OTA updates for more than just their infotainment systems. Tesla is the most notable, as its vehicles are upgraded constantly as the company rolls out its new Autopilot system incrementally to build up its self-driving capabilities.
As cars become more connected, their infotainment systems will morph to reflect the tech in our phones. It’s already happening: Rather than adding the light, phone-dependent Android Auto experience, Google recently announced that upcoming Volvo and Audi models will literally run on Android, with the entire connected car system working on a new version of the OS.
Ford dipped its toes into the future of connected cars with this first OTA update … but it’ll be far from the last.