A View from Erika Jonietz

Ford Goes Wireless

The new version of Sync broadcasts WiFi in the car.

  • December 21, 2009

Today Ford announced the second generation of its Sync in-car connectivity system. The biggest feature of the new version: an in-car WiFi system, powered by customer’s USB mobile broadband modem. Using any mobile modem (often known as an “aircard”), the new Sync system will broadcast a WiFi signal throughout the vehicle, giving WiFi-enabled computers and other mobile devices access to the Internet wherever the broadband modem gets a signal.

Inserting a USB mobile broadband modem into Sync’s USB port provides passengers with a secure wireless Internet connection broadcast throughout the car. Courtesy: Ford Motor

The Sync system will provide secure wireless connections, using the WiFi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) protocol. It will require users to enter a randomly chosen password before they can connect to the Internet. When SYNC sees a WiFi device for the first time, the driver has to specifically allow it to connect, preventing unauthorized users from using the signal.

Ford isn’t the first car company to announce in-car WiFi; last year, for example, Chrysler teamed up with Autonet Mobile to offer an built-in WiFi router in most of its 2009 vehicles. That system, however, requires a monthly service fee. The Sync system will rely on customers’ existing mobile broadband services.

As have other car companies, Ford emphasizes that the WiFi system is for use only by passengers … but I’ve already seen drivers in Austin playing with aircard-equipped laptops at stoplights. How long until we’re wondering if the guy weaving in front of us is drunk, on the phone … or surfing the Web?

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