Ford cars are about to become true mobile hot spots.
The carmaker announced Monday the next generation of its Sync system designed to let Ford owners plug a USB modem directly into a car's built-in Wi-Fi, creating broadband Internet access to all passengers. Those in the car can jump online through any Wi-Fi-enabled device, from smartphone to laptop.
Ford said that this factory-installed capability will be available next year on certain Sync-equipped cars and that no extra hardware or subscriptions will be needed outside of an existing broadband modem, which the customer supplies. Ford's Wi-Fi system will include WPA2 security, ensuring that only people in the car will be able to hop onto the network.
"The speeds with which technology is evolving, particularly on the wireless front, makes obsolescence a real problem," Doug VanDagens, director of Ford's Connected Services Solutions Organization, said in a statement. "We've solved that problem by making Sync work with just about any technology you plug into it. By leveraging a user's existing hardware, which can be upgraded independent of Sync, we've helped ensure 'forward compatibility' with whatever connectivity technology comes next."
Design by Ford and Microsoft, Ford's Sync lets drivers make calls, play music, get directions, grab news and weather, and search for businesses and other information, all using voice and text-to-speech technology. Ford's new Sync edition won't be the first Wi-Fi technology to give people on-the-road Internet. Similar devices have popped up over the past year, some dealer-installed and some independent.
Autonet Mobile designs similar hardware for cars, as does a company called Waav. Autonet does require a subscription fee for its service--$29 a month for 1GB of data or $59 a month for 5GB. But it's an independent device designed to work with different makes and models (though currently available as dealer-installed for Cadillac), while Ford's Sync only comes with certain Ford vehicles.