27
Aug
10

Chicago Ford plant to use Wi-Fi in assembly

SANDRA GUY STAFF REPORTER

The Ford Motor Co. assembly plant on Chicago’s South Side will be among the first to use Wi-Fi wireless Internet technology to install software inside the 2011 Ford Explorer SUV.

The assembly line is lined with wireless routers — similar to the routers that people install in their homes to get wireless Internet access — and the Explorer contains a built-in Wi-Fi receiver.

When Explorer production starts this winter, the SUV will pick up the Wi-Fi routers’ signals, and an assembly-line worker will push a button to download software onto the Explorer, said Alan Hall, Ford Motor Co.’s technology communications manager.

The software is tailored for each model, so that the Explorer sold in the United States will have traffic information about American roadways; English, Spanish and French speaking options, and the appropriate 911 emergency delivery. Vehicles sold in other markets would get other language downloads, such as German, Portuguese, Italian and Mandarin.

The first Ford assembly plant to use the Wi-Fi technology is one in Oakville, Ontario, where the 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX are manufactured.

The Wi-Fi setup saves money because it eliminates the need to build, stock and store a variety of hardware modules, said Sukhwinder Wadhwa, the global platform manager for Ford’s SYNC features. The SYNC controls such capabilities as traffic alerts, hands-free calling, 911 assistance and music search.

The Wi-Fi capability will have no effect on the number of jobs at the Ford plant, Hall said. The plant has received more than 2,000 applications for the previously announced 400 to 600 new jobs to build the Explorer.

In the future, car shoppers might be able to select their own software applications at the dealership and get those apps downloaded either at the dealership or through their home Wi-Fi system, Hall said.

“The built-in Wi-Fi receiver opens up all kinds of potential to deliver unique software into the vehicle,” he said.

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