Ford launches advanced connectivity features for selected models

Ranger, Everest and Transit first to have FordPass Connect.

Queenslanders know all too well the sensory assault of climbing into the searing hot interior of a car that’s been left to bake under the tropical sun. 

But imagine if, at the swipe of an app on your smartphone, you could start the car and run the air-conditioning for five minutes or so before climbing in. 

This and many other remote features will soon be available to customers of Ford Australia as the company rolls out its FordPass app and FordPass Connect technology here for the first time.

Although new to our shores, the technology has been in use in the US and other markets for some time, with Ford claiming some seven million customers are already using it. 

The new FordPass Connect feature will arrive first on Ford Ranger, Everest and Transits models, scheduled to land in showrooms later this month. 

Ford says the technology will be eventually standardised across its entire model line-up, with full coverage expected by early 2021.

However, the company acknowledged there would be a period of transition where some models in showrooms have the technology and others do not, and said its dealers had been trained accordingly to discuss this with customers. 

“FordPass Connect is another way we’re bringing smart, simple-to-use real-world technology into the hands of Ford owners and their families,” said Kay Hart, President and CEO, of Ford Australia and New Zealand. 

“FordPass Connect makes life simpler and easier, and as our best-selling vehicles in Australia, we’ve chosen Ranger, Everest and Transit as the first to offer this innovative technology as standard.”

FordPass is coming to Australia.

Each new Ford fitted with the FordPass Connect features an inbuilt cellular modem fitted with a SIM card that can be paired with the FordPass app on an owner’s phone.

Once activated, using the vehicle’s VIN Number, the system enables features including remote locking and unlocking, remote start (auto only), vehicle status and remote vehicle monitoring, live traffic updates, vehicle locator and vehicle health alerts. 

In instances where there is more than one user of a vehicle, the app can be downloaded on multiple phones, with the primary user able to authorise others users to access the VIN and create an account. 

Ford confirmed the remote start feature was available only on cars equipped with automatic transmissions, and that owners were permitted only two consecutive remote starts before they needed to start the car with the key, as a precautionary measure.

A company spokesperson also said, even when started, the car can’t be driven without the vehicle proximity key being with the vehicle, eliminating the chance of it being stolen. 
 
As for data protection, Ford pointed to the fact the technology was already in use on millions of vehicles worldwide and there had been no reported data breaches. 

“There is an incredible priority put on connected vehicle data protection,” said Christine Wagner, Mobility and Connectivity Manager for Ford Australia.

Ford said the inbuilt modem and global roaming sim would link to any of the three Australian Telcos, to ensure maximum quality signal strength at all times. 

The powered modem will not drain the car’s battery, according to Ford, as it’s not a constant feed and goes to sleep until woken by someone accessing their device. 

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The connected cars are also fitted with a so-called “deep sleep” mode which disconnects services to preserve battery life if a vehicle left unattended for 14 days or more.  

The modem is covered by Ford’s standard five-year warranty and moves with the car to a secondary owner when the vehicle is sold, but requires a master reset to sever the relationship with the previous connected app account, before a new user can take it over. 

FordPass Connect technology will be included in the cost of new Ford models, with the first three years of live traffic updates also included. 

Ford said there was no decision on whether live traffic updates would be charged for after this initial period but did confirm the FordPass Connect platform was designed to also provide paid-for services.

It’s also designed to be updated with new features throughout the life of the vehicle, with new additions in the US including trailer light check, zone lighting (F150) and off-road maps and adventure capture (Bronco). 

The company said there were no plans at this stage to offer phone-as-a-key technology in its Australian models, despite this being available in the US on some Ford luxury models.

Older vehicles cannot be retrofitted with FordPass Connect technology but Ford said existing owners could still download and use the Ford Pass app, which was available free of charge for Apple and Android devices.

The non-connected version enables owners access to key vehicle information including warranty details and their vehicle’s owner’s manual, roadside assistance contact number, and an online service booking at participating dealers. 

In addition to FordPass Connect, the company announced that every new Ford model released moving forward will include SYNC 3, enabling Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice-activated satnav as well as autonomous emergency braking across the entire Ford line-up.