Ford using first over-the-air software updates to its 2016 cars

Ford Motor Co said on Friday it would delve into the growing arena of "over-the-air" software updates, adding Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to its Sync 3-equipped 2016 vehicles for the first time via a wireless software update.

Android Auto is already available on all 2017 models, and this update brings the platform to around 800,000 additional vehicles.

There's good news for anyone with a 2016-model Ford. As long as a user's Sync 3 system is running version 2.2, the update can be installed one of two different ways. If you have a Wi-Fi enabled vehicle, you have to ensure that automatic updating is enabled within Sync 3, then, when it connects to your home network, the update will be downloaded. Customers will also now be able to enable automatic updates, which will have the system search for updates periodically and install them when found.

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Retroactively offering this kind of thing to auto owners is a definite change in tone for auto makers, since they typically use these kinds of things as incentives to get people interested in vehicle model updates. Google Maps, Google Play Music, and some third-party apps are integrated into the infotainment system with on-screen projection and voice controls, as are phone and messaging functions. With a simplified interface, large touch targets, Google voice search and easy-to-use voice controls, Android Auto is created to minimize distraction while on the road.

Ford will finally bring smartphone mirroring to its older vehicles running Sync 3, the latest version of Ford's in-car touchscreen infotainment system.

This is Ford's first Wi-Fi OTA update.

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SYNC 3 now supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on all model-year 2017 Ford cars including the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion and Mustang, SUVs including the Escape, Explorer and Expedition, F-Series trucks and Ford's electrified vehicles. That means all you have to do to receive it is park your Wi-Fi-equipped vehicle within range of a designated Wi-Fi network-your garage might work, depending on how close it is to your router-and the auto will automatically check for and download the update as if it were a smartphone or computer. If any update becomes available then the SYNC system will download and install the update in the background.

Customers must upgrade their USB hubs in order to receive Apple CarPlay support.

In total, 800,000 vehicles are eligible for the update, which is being called a giant step for Ford, which recently hired 400 engineers to work on its connected auto initiative.

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