Now this...this is progress! With some of the legacy automakers lagging
behind in quite a few areas, Ford
is hoping to turn the tables by using a
commonplace technology in order to better equip their SYNC
The idea? To install Wi-Fi access points in their assembly lines in
order to beam updates, maps and up-to-date firmwares to vehicles as they
roll down the line. This move obviously makes assembling the vehicle
quicker, but more importantly, it assures consumers that their vehicle
will arrive with the most up-to-date version of the SYNC software.
Having to manually install these updates is extremely time consuming,
and one has to believe that Ford would allow longer gaps to go between
updates without an automated Wi-Fi update process in place. Oakville, Ontario
assembly plant, which
produces the all-new 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, will be first to
have the on-the-assembly-line Wi-Fi capability, with Chicago Assembly,
home of the new 2011 Ford Explorer, and other global Ford manufacturing
sites soon to follow.
According to Ford, they are the first automaker to use Wi-Fi
provisioning on the assembly line to wirelessly deliver SYNC software to
vehicles equipped with the new
MyFord Touch driver connect technology as they are being built. This new
method eliminates the need for building, stocking and storing multiple
hardware modules, thus reducing manufacturing complexity and saving
cost. And getting the most updated software to drivers, of course.
So, is this the start of something special for automakers? We've long
since thought that navigation systems in vehicles lag behind those sold
in stores, but this type of instant update could help even the playing
Ford First With Assembly Line Wi-Fi Provisioning for Delivery of SYNC Software to 2011 Edge
DEARBORN, Mich., Aug. 26 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ --
* Ford is installing Wi-Fi® access points on its assembly lines to wirelessly deliver SYNC® software to new Wi-Fi-enabled MyFord Touch™-equipped vehicles as they are being built
* On-the-line software downloads allow Ford to use a common SYNC hardware module for every vehicle, reducing complexity, improving quality and saving cost
* The Oakville, Ontario assembly plant, which produces the all-new 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, will be first to have the on-the-assembly-line Wi-Fi capability, with Chicago Assembly, home of the new 2011 Ford Explorer, and other global Ford manufacturing sites soon to follow
Ford (NYSE: F) is the first automaker to use Wi-Fi provisioning on the assembly line to wirelessly deliver SYNC software to vehicles equipped with the new MyFord Touch driver connect technology as they are being built.
The new on-the-assembly-line Wi-Fi capability eliminates the need for building, stocking and storing multiple SYNC hardware modules, thus reducing manufacturing complexity and saving cost.
"Using wireless software installation via Wi-Fi, we can stock just one type of SYNC module powering MyFord Touch and loaded with a basic software package," explained Sukhwinder Wadhwa, SYNC global platform manager. "We eliminate around 90 unique part numbers, each of which would have to be updated every time a change is made – this system really boosts quality control."
Earlier in the year, Ford announced that the next-generation SYNC system that powers MyFord Touch would feature a built-in Wi-Fi receiver. Now, Ford is further capitalizing on the limitless possibilities of this in-car wireless connection, making communication between the vehicle and the assembly line a reality.
The Oakville, Ontario, assembly line that produces the all-new 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX will be the first to feature wireless access points for software installation. In turn, the Edge and MKX will become the first vehicles to get their infotainment software installed via Wi-Fi while moving down the line.
A global endeavor, Ford is also targeting Chicago Assembly Plant, which is building the all-new 2011 Ford Explorer, for Wi-Fi installation capabilities. Plant locations throughout the world that will support the 2012 Ford Focus launch will soon follow.
Through July, hundreds of pilot vehicles were successfully moving through the Wi-Fi access point at Oakville. "Employees at the Oakville assembly plant helped us tremendously in getting the Wi-Fi process to work, and work perfectly," said Wadhwa. "Turning an assembly plant – with steel beams everywhere and high-voltage cabling throughout; everything you could imagine that would interfere with a radio signal – into an access point that would achieve 100 percent success was a huge challenge.
"Oakville is our model for what we're doing next in Chicago, then into Europe for the new Ford Focus."
Going wireless for software delivery addresses a number of manufacturing complexity and potential quality issues for Ford as more and more features and services are added to SYNC across multiple vehicle lines and continents.
"As we began developing the different levels of MyFord driver connect technology, we grew increasingly concerned with the number of different hardware configurations we were going to have to keep on hand," said Wadhwa.
Where engineers initially proposed unique SYNC hardware modules for each possible vehicle configuration – resulting in more than 90 individual part numbers – Wi-Fi installation allows those different configurations to be stored as software on a computer server and wirelessly installed on a common, basic SYNC hardware module as the vehicles are built.
Through the Wi-Fi connection, SYNC software options totaling as much as 300 megabytes of data can be installed and configured wirelessly, including:
* The addition of the SYNC app Traffic, Directions & Information in U.S. markets
* Market-appropriate languages for voice-activated commands and system prompts
* Option-specific graphics and icons for navigation, system information and instrument panel screens
* Unique system color schemes for MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch
* Units of measurement settings for fuel economy, speed and distance
With the dual challenge of implementing a cutting-edge driver connect technology like MyFord Touch and rolling that technology out to a global marketplace, Wi-Fi has been a key to rapid globalization of the SYNC system, added Wadhwa.
"Ford is developing and implementing world-class manufacturing techniques that are just as advanced as the vehicles they're being used to build, and we're scaling these techniques for use around the globe," he said.