“Alexa, start my Ford and turn on the air conditioning” is the kind of verbal command that future Ford vehicle owners will be able to seamlessly execute from the comfort of their home. The automaker plans a wireless software update to make Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant an integrated feature for 700,000 Ford vehicles in the US and Canada this year.
The update includes free Alexa connectivity for three years. This is just one of several wireless updates Ford has planned to upgrade vehicles that are already on the go. But the voice assistant and the addition of BlueCruise, Ford’s hands-free driver assistant technology, are the biggies. An update to Mach-E will also be available soon, introducing Sketch for easy play and the ability to draw on the touchscreen and save your work. A future update will allow the work to be shared on social media.
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Ford Power-Up Technology enables OTAs
Ford Power-Up software technology makes it possible to regularly improve vehicles with a mixture of corrections and other quality improvements that are sent wirelessly – while you sleep, if you want – as well as new features and apps to improve the user experience.
The automaker will produce 33 million vehicles with power-up capability by 2028, says Alex Purdy, director of business operations for enterprise connectivity at Ford. It starts with the high-volume Ford F-150 in 2021 and the electric crossover Ford Mustang Mach-E in 2021 and will be integrated into new vehicles that are launched with the required second generation electrical architecture and embedded modem connectivity.
The first power-up software updates for the F-150 and Mach-E began on March 18 and have been sent to approximately 100,000 customers, says Ford’s software updates manager Aziz Makkiya. Engineers are preparing for a second major upgrade with new features later this year, including BlueCruise.
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Updates for all Ford vehicles, not just high-end vehicles
Power-up isn’t limited to just high-end models or just retail customers. Commercial vehicle buyers are a priority knowing they are in their vehicles all day and would benefit from features that make their job easier.
Updates in the next few weeks will improve navigation through more suggested destinations and better voice recognition for searches, as well as turn-by-turn navigation with CarPlay in the instrument cluster.
Ford and Amazon plan to work together on improved services over the next six years to create personalized commercial vehicle services for business owners and fleet managers, improve towing for the F-150, improve off-roading with the Bronco, and improve the EV lifestyle for Mach-E owners, says Purdy.
Amazon is working with Ford to help drivers, such as telling Alexa to find a gas station and pay for the fuel. Alexa will ask which pump it is, then unlock that pump and pay to refill it.
This time Alexa is different
Yes, you can now integrate Alexa into some Ford vehicles – Amazon first worked with Ford in 2017 to bring Alexa to vehicles using a smartphone app – but the partners are now rolling out a fully embedded Alexa that is easy and seamless with new ones Vehicles works that have embedded modems. No buttons need to be pressed. Just speak to connect to Alexa devices in a smart home.
“We developed Alexa Auto because customers asked for it,” says Amazon Vice President of Alexa Automotive Ned Curic. “They tried putting Echo Dot devices in vehicles and it didn’t work.”
A JD Power survey found that 76 percent of customers who use voice assistants at home would like to use the same system in their vehicle.
Updates are your new oil change
In the future, software updates will be more frequent, says Purdy. Being a software-driven company is the new lens through which Ford approaches everything, he says. “We believe data is the new oil.”
The connectivity team can now update about 80 modules in a high-end vehicle and is working to be able to change the coding in virtually every module in the future. According to Purdy, data protection firewalls are built into the software.
Tesla made the public aware of OTAs and made their cars cool and new, with wireless surprises for owners and the ability to upgrade in areas like greater range.
Fixed without a trip to the dealer
The nice thing about OTA updates is that they do not require a visit to the dealer and thus leave a trace in the service bay. Most updates happen without the owner’s knowledge and require little or no action. Drivers often only find out about the upgrade when they start their vehicle. For updates that require a reboot, owners can schedule the cloud-delivered update to be installed overnight. Some only last two minutes; others will take longer.
Commercial vehicle owners can maximize their availability and operate their fleets more efficiently because they have a wealth of information and can resolve problems quickly – ideally before they fail, which saves time and hassle, says Purdy. And quick fixes reduce Ford’s warranty costs.
Faster corrections possible
Real-time data sharing shows how customers are using their vehicles, and this information helps Ford duplicate the features customers like, remove those they don’t, and quickly pinpoint issues that need to be resolved. Once diagnosed, Ford can work on a fix, test it on a smaller group, and then wirelessly broadcast it to all vehicles.
This was the case when there were complaints of battery drain on early builds of the Mach-E. Once the problem was identified, software developers were able to respond quickly and save the company $ 20 million, Makkiya said. They were able to run an analysis, diagnose, develop a solution, test it in a small group, and then deploy a software patch to everyone, saving the company $ 20 million. A fix will be released in June that will address some issues with the Sync4 Android auto connectivity in the F-150 and Mach-E.