SAN JOSE, Calif. Ford Motor Co. said the next generation of its Sync in-car infotainment systems to be released in 2010 will support Wi-Fi. Users will have to supply a wireless modem that plugs into the Sync systems USB slot to link the in-car Wi-Fi net to the Internet.
Ford said its approach will be cheaper and smaller than competing aftermarket systems that cost as much as $500 plus subscription fees. The approach also lets users upgrade to higher speed modems as technologies advance.
"The speeds with which technology is evolving, particularly on the wireless front, makes obsolescence a real problem," said Doug VanDagens, director of Ford's Connected Services Solutions Organization, in a press statement. "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," he said.
Using the Sync Wi-Fi system, a signal will be broadcast throughout the vehicle. Default security is set to Wi-Fi Protected Access 2, requiring users to enter a randomly chosen password to connect to the Internet. When Sync sees a new WiFi device for the first time, the driver must specifically allow that device to connect, preventing unauthorized users.
More than half of the 77 million U.S. driving adults considered technology enthusiasts expressed the desire for a Web access in their cars, according to a study by the Consumer Electronics Association. Among the general population, more than one third of Americans said they would be interested in the ability to check email and access Web sites in their vehicles.
An estimated 62.3 million people will have Internet access in their cars by 2016, up from 970,000 at the end of 2009, according to iSuppli Corp. The United States is expected to be the leading region for car Internet access in 2009 and during the next six years, with users rising to 28.3 million in 2016, up from 520,000 in 2009.
Ford did not provide any other details about when the next-generation Synch offering will be available or what it will include. The Ford Synch approach is similar to that of other auto makers linking their in-car telematics systems to a user's smart phone and data plan, according to iSuppli.
The main exceptions include BMW, which has introduced an embedded telematics system with a data plan on the 7-Series in Germany. In addition, Chrysler pioneered in 2008 a cellular-to-Wi-Fi router system now also available from Cadillac and Volkswagen, iSuppli said.