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Ford beaming Sync software to assembly line cars

Automaker will use Wi-Fi to send its Sync software directly to cars as they're built in the factory, which it says can cut costs and improve quality.


Ford will tap into the power of Wi-Fi by wirelessly sending its Sync in-car software to vehicles as they're built on the assembly line.

Touting itself as the first automaker to use Wi-Fi on the assembly line, Ford said Thursday that the new process will cut out the need to build and store Sync modules for each car, helping to reduce costs, streamline manufacturing, and ultimately improve quality. The process takes advantage of the Sync system's built-in Wi-Fi that Ford added earlier this year.

"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," Sukhwinder Wadhwa, Ford's Sync global platform manager, said in a statement. "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."

Making its debut at Ford's Oakville, Ontario, factory later this year, the new Wi-Fi process will target the 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX as the first cars to receive the Sync software wirelessly while they're under construction.

"Employees at the Oakville assembly plant helped us tremendously in getting the Wi-Fi process to work, and work perfectly," Wadhwa said. "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."

Next in line for Wi-Fi will be the automaker's Chicago assembly plant and the 2011 Ford Explorer. This will be followed by other factories around the world, including the European plants building the 2012 Ford Focus.

Launched in 2007, the Microsoft-based Sync "infotainment" system is available in certain Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury vehicles. The software offers traffic information, directions, and 911 assistance. It allows people to use voice commands to operate cell phones and digital media players. It also reads text messages aloud and serves as a Wi-Fi hot spot.