Ford to roll out over-the-air software updates this year

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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Ford F-150
Ford F-150

American multinational automaker Ford is finally ready to begin rolling out over-the-air (OTA) software updates to its vehicles at scale.

Though Tesla and other automakers have offered OTA updates for years, Ford only started doing so this year with a limited number of Ford F-150 and Mustang Mach-E customers.

However, the automaker claims it is prepared to rapidly increase the number of vehicles that can receive software updates all while producing 33 million such vehicles by 2028.

Ford, which is known for slapping the phrase “Built Ford Tough” on its products, is keeping it simple this time, referring to the software updates as “Ford Power-Ups.”

Ford said that over 100,000 F-150 and Mach-E customers have received their first OTA updates in the last two months. There will be more to come, including owners of the new Ford Bronco. Later this year, the automaker will release a big update that will include Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.

Amazon Alexa

For some Ford owners, this isn’t exactly new. Customers with Alexa accounts have been able to use their smartphones’ mobile connection and data processor to mirror the smart home assistant in their cars since 2017.

However, Alexa will now be “embedded” within the car’s operating system, allowing for a more integrated user experience. Additionally, Ford is offering Alexa for free for the first three years, after which subscription fees will kick in.

Mr. Ned Curic, Vice President of Amazon Alexa Automotive stated that “that experience is a decent one, though it’s not a north star, friction-free experience. After the software update, Alexa will be fully embedded in Ford vehicles, which should make it a more delightful experience for customers.”

Ford isn’t following Tesla’s lead in providing quirky software updates like Mario Kart and fart sounds. Ford is looking into ways for customers to share their in-car drawings on social media, according to the company.

The updates won’t just apply to the vehicle’s infotainment system. Ford announced that it is developing the ability to push updates to up to 110 computer modules within the vehicle.

Not all updates will be available for free. BlueCruise, Ford’s “hands-free” highway driving assist system, will be available later this year to customers who have purchased the necessary software updates for their F-150 or Mach-E.

Ford said that the majority of the updates will be “virtually invisible” to customers and will require “little to no action.” Others will necessitate a reboot of the vehicle’s operating system, which can be done at a convenient time, such as overnight.

Mr. Alex Purdy, Head of Business Operations added that this, along with the upcoming Alexa software update, is proof that Ford is committed to “giving our customers the choice to stick with the technologies and brands they’re already using and love or to try something new.”

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