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Ford’s SmartLink dongle adds an LTE hot spot and smart features to older cars

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For a monthly fee, of course

Cars have become feature-packed pieces of technology, but they’re not exactly the kind of thing you can (or want to) buy over and over again to keep up with the times. One aftermarket solution that makes older cars a little bit smarter is a dongle that plugs into the car’s onboard diagnostics, or OBD, port. These have been made and sold by everyone from Samsung to Verizon to a number of startups, but now, Ford’s making one available for its own cars.

The FordPass SmartLink, as its called, does a lot of the same things as those other available dongles. When plugged into OBD ports on model year 2010 to 2017 Ford cars that lack a modem, it adds an LTE hot spot, gives the driver access to information about the vehicle’s health, allows the car to be tracked, and makes it possible to do things like unlock or lock the car via a smartphone app.

All that information doesn’t exactly come cheap. The FordPass SmartLink will be sold at Ford dealerships starting in “mid-2018,” and costs $17 per month plus installation. (Ford originally announced the SmartLink OBD dongle at the beginning of last year, but rolled out access to it slowly as part of a trial program. This is the first time it will be widely available.)

But that monthly price doesn’t include the data for the hot spot, which is provided by Verizon. Ford says that customers will get one month or up to 1GB of data for free, whichever comes first, but after that, they’ll have to pay a monthly fee just like they would for any other data plan.