Ford launches Sync 4 and over-the-air updates

Ford is going all-in on tech this week, announcing both the latest generation of its Sync 4 infotainment and connectivity suite and the availability of advanced over-the-air (OTA) updates starting with its 2020 model year lineup. 

The big news is the introduction of Sync 4, which now incorporates cloud-based services enabled by the new FordPass Connect ecosystem. This now integrates Sync 4 and the FordPass Connect smartphone app, which can further interface with other smart accessories.

With Sync 4, Ford is pushing into “smart” space, turning what was an infotainment system into the realm of interactive digital assistants. While the updated UI enables on-screen multi-tasking by allowing more than one app to be open at once (along with access to key controls via a “card” at the bottom of the screen) the real power of Ford’s latest Sync is the ability to interact using natural language. 

“With this new fourth-generation technology, we’ve evolved SYNC into an intelligent, voice-activated, in-vehicle digital assistant,” Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product development & purchasing officer, said in Wednesday’s announcement.

While cloud services will require Ford’s optional wi-fi hotspot, the company notes that Sync is smart enough to handle drivers’ needs without help from the internet, whether because the customer decided not to spring for the LTE hot spot, or due to connectivity issues in more remote locales. 

Sync 4 also incorporates wireless smartphone integration, so owners can connect their Apple or Android devices to access built-in features like Google Maps or Waze navigation without using a physical cable.

Ford’s newest models will also be capable of receiving over-the-air software updates starting next year. While direct over-the-air updates are new for Ford, the company has been allowing end users to perform software updates since the roll-out of Sync 3, which began in 2016.

Those updates were performed either over wi-fi or by way of a USB thumb drive rather than a cellular data network. True over-the-air updates are more convenient and transparent for owners, who can even allow their vehicles to perform updates automatically if they choose. 

Both Sync 4 and OTA update capability will debut with select 2020 model year vehicles, but Ford will roll it out to the rest of its lineup in short order.