Ford’s had a change of heart. When every other automaker went running for smartphone apps that connected to a vehicle via an in-car modem, Ford chose to hold off, claiming the smartphone was the method for providing vehicles with Internet-based functionality. That’s all changed with the release of Sync Connect, which will launch with the 2017 Ford Escape unveiled at the.
“There’s a recognition that we need to be multifaceted in regards to connectivity,” said Don Butler, Ford’s director of connected vehicles and services. “With where we see the industry going, built-in connectivity will become an increasing part of what we do. I think the approach that we’ve taken at Ford has been consistent with our customers and their needs.”
Sync Connect is similar to apps from other automakers in that it allows the owner to access certain vehicle functions and information from the owner’s own smartphone. Available features include remote lock and unlock, vehicle status including tire pressures and fuel level, vehicle location and remote start.
Its standout feature is the ability to remote start a vehicle according to a schedule. You can, for example, program your car to start at 7:15 every morning for your 7:30 departure. Other automakers offer remote-start capabilities, but none let you schedule it ahead of time. Ford also believes its user interface will help set it apart from its competitors.
The app will also receive over-the-air updates, which require the car to be running. However, you won’t lose infotainment functionality while that happens. According to Ford, the updating takes place on a module that operates independently of the Sync 3 infotainment system, so the driver won’t miss anything while it’s happening.
Sync Connect will launch with the 2017 Ford Escape, which debuts this week at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show. It requires both Ford’s latest infotainment system, Sync 3, as well as the aforementioned embedded modem, so it’s not possible to retrofit the app to work with older vehicles. It will eventually make its way to Lincoln’s products, as well.
Now that Ford will be installing modems in its new vehicles, there’s a possibility that the automaker will eventually offer data streaming similar to GM’s OnStar 4G LTE setup. Spokesman Alan Hall told CNET that “it’s fair to say” that it’s on the roadmap for the future.
Sync Connect functionality is included in the price of the vehicle, and it includes five years of coverage. Ford is still hammering out the details regarding packages and pricing for when those five years are up. The automaker will eventually roll this system out to all its vehicles in every market around the world.