Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn announced it will produce 33 million vehicles with its Power-Up software update service by 2028, expand its rollout of a more seamless Amazon Alexa as a complimentary feature for up to three years, and add more over-the-air updates to its BlueCruise hands-free highway driving technology.
The first Ford Power-Up software updates for F-150 and Mustang Mach-E customers in North America began in March, accelerating a transformation well underway with more than 6 million vehicles on the road today featuring advanced, embedded modem connectivity.
New vehicles equipped with Ford Power-Up capability identify customer preferences and vehicle issues, which Ford engineers then translate into quality and capability improvements delivered through Ford Power-Up enhancements.
“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, business operations, enterprise connectivity, at Ford. “We’ve invested in more seamless technology so updates can happen (any time).”
A new fully networked, second-generation electrical architecture and advanced tech stack create the foundation to deliver unique Ford Power-Up software updates. The quick and easy wireless upgrades help enhance features, quality, experiences, capability, and convenience. Capable of updating most vehicle computer modules — 80 on higher end models — the upgrades can help improve the ownership experience and may help reduce the need for repair trips.
Many Ford Power-Up software updates will be virtually invisible to customers, enabled by a tech platform that installs much of the new software in the background. Many updates require little to no action by the customer, enabled by SYNC 4 Technology that keeps current software running until the new version is ready to go.
For updates that require reboots, Ford invites customers to schedule them at convenient times, such as overnight. Some updates can be made in under two minutes, while others may take longer. Unlike updates for devices such as laptops which often seem to come at inconvenient times, vehicle owners may not even notice that the installation occurred until the vehicle is started.
Ford also is prepping what’s planned to be the industry’s broadest rollout of the embedded Alexa hands-free experience to date, with complimentary connectivity to Alexa for up to three years. This year alone, the same type of Alexa voice command functionality many people have in their homes 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 companies plan to work together to deliver enhanced features and new commercial services over the next six years. This includes exploring the development of the first custom Alexa skills for Ford commercial vehicles, using the power of Alexa artificial intelligence 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 Power-Up software updates beginning this fall for Bronco, Edge, F-150, Mustang Mach-E and Super Duty customers with SYNC 4 Technology in the U.S. and Canada, with 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, 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, starting with connected vehicle skills and then adding in-vehicle capabilities through the SYNC AppLink smartphone app, which is still available but no longer required for the new, more seamless capability. More information about how customers can set up an Alexa account will be shared closer to launch.
Inside their 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 view or touch screens and helping them keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Customers can interact with their vehicles naturally and say things like, “Alexa, find the closest gas station” or “Alexa, play my road trip playlist” or “Alexa, call Mom.”
Ford customers will be able to access the benefits of Amazon’s world-class voice AI and intelligent features both inside and outside their vehicle. Combined with the FordPass skill for Alexa — which customers can continue to use to control vehicle functions such as start/stop engine, lock and unlock doors, check vehicle range or tire pressure all 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 soon will receive Sketch — also referred to as Notes in vehicle menus — for touchscreen drawing and simple gaming.
Ford Power-Up software updates will quickly expand to nearly all vehicle computer modules, enabling an update of Ford 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. Ford also plans to address an issue with F-150 and Mustang Mach-E Android Auto connectivity by June.
Customers also will continue to receive new enhancements over the coming weeks, including:
- Remote Vehicle Setup and Trip Logs let 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.
- F-150 SYNC 4 and Mustang Mach-E SYNC 4A upgrades, including:
- Navigation enhancements automatically make helpful destination suggestions, plus new cloud connectivity combines conversational voice command recognition with internet-based search.
- Apple CarPlay compatibility enhancement to display turn-by-turn navigation in the vehicle’s instrument cluster.
- Digital owner’s manual enhancements to continue making the innovative, paperless product guides even more valuable.