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Starting in 2020 Ford is going to be offering over-the-air updates for its vehicles. It could be something to keep an eye out for with the next-generation Ranger.


Tesla has made much of the fact all its cars can be updated via over-the-air (OTA) upgrades. Now Ford is doing the same thing for legacy automakers. And although the company says that the process is a little more difficult – the time it takes to download and upgrade is critical since traditional cars have but a puny 12-volt battery that is easily depleted – virtually everything software-related in 2020 and later Fords, “bumper-to-bumper,” says said Don Butler, executive director of Ford’s Connected Vehicle and Services, will be upgrade-able remotely.

That means that, on top of updates to infotainment and creature-comfort subsystem, new Ford engines, transmissions and even brake systems will be OTA-repairable. For instance, glitch shifting on new eight- and ten-speed automatics – a common consumer complaint – can now be fixed while you car is in your driveway.

In fact, since Ford’s latest controllers can store the updates in the background, John Vangelov, Ford’s modem feature manager, says you can even program updates to occur while you’re asleep.

Meanwhile, in its steady progress from what was the worst infotainment system in the biz – the original Sync – to what is now one of the segment leaders, Ford is introducing the fourth generation of its infotainment system. Besides a whole bunch of new screens – from the current 8-inch screen to a whopping 15.5-inch monstrosity and even a landscape-oriented version – Ford is pushing cloud connectivity and machine learning even deeper into its architecture.

So, says Ford, Sync 4’s voice recognition is now “conversational,” Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is now cord-free and machine learning means the system now learns your restaurant and entertainment preferences faster. On the largest 15.5-inch display, Sync will now let you run six different functions simultaneously, their controls displayed in something called Adaptive Dash Cards, Ford-speak for “tiles.”

Whatever you call them, each of these little cards can remain minimized with basic controls or they can become the main display with full functionality. It’s pretty slick and should keep Ford at the leading edge of dashboard man-machine interfaces. Ford says that accessing the cloud also increases the speed and accuracy of the built-in navigation system with up-to-the-minute updates and a wider range of information including things like parking spot availability and pricing to name but one advantage.

There’s even a digital owner’s manual on-board that will include in-depth information on vehicle features and streamable how-to videos and more — all through a searchable database.

Look for Sync 4 as redesigned 2020 models arrive in Ford dealerships.
 
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