Ahead of this week's LA Auto Show, Ford has announced Sync Connect, a new LTE-based service that will debut first with the 2017 Escape (which is also debuting this week). Most Ford cars sold in the US already include Wi-Fi support, but LTE adds a few new things like phone app-based remote lock and unlock, remote start, vehicle health check, and current vehicle location, which is convenient for finding your car in a mega-mall's parking lot.
Ford already offers cellular connectivity in some of its vehicles — plug-in hybrids and Lincoln models, for instance — but this announcement represents a much larger deployment: the Escape is very much a mainstream vehicle for the company, and other mainstream vehicles will follow. "As you might expect with Ford, our intent is to democratize technology and make it broadly available," Don Butler, Ford's director of connected vehicle and services, tells The Verge. "The announcement for us is the beginning of a broader deployment of Sync Connect capability across our vehicles and across the globe." For now, though, the company isn't making any announcements about Connect service in Europe or other regional markets.
GM was first, and Ford won't be the last
The system, which pairs AT&T LTE connectivity inside the car to a new phone app for Android and iOS, will include five years of free service; Ford isn't saying what might happen after that, but the initial offering should at least cover the lease periods for new cars that roll off dealer lots.
In-car LTE has just recently become a new battleground for mainstream automakers, led by an aggressive push from GM to launch it on Chevrolet that was first announced in 2014. That works well for carriers, which have been keen to expand their revenue streams beyond the smartphone; some have started launching smartwatches with their own LTE connections, and AT&T has an actual garage near its Atlanta campus where automakers and startups can engineer and test in-car products that use its network.
The 2017 Escape is expected to launch commercially next year.