Connected Cars – A Review of Fordpass
I recently got the chance to use the Fordpass connected vehicle system when I picked up a brand new Ford Ranger XLT. I thought I’d give a review of the technology and what it does, …
I recently got the chance to use the Fordpass connected vehicle system when I picked up a brand new Ford Ranger XLT. I thought I’d give a review of the technology and what it does, contrast my experience with my expectations and consider what this means for the future.
What is Fordpass?
Fordpass is essentially a sim card and modem along with software that keeps your vehicle connected to the internet. The data feed and connectivity is initially provided for 3 years I believe as part of the purchase of a new vehicle, although I’ll be surprised if the manufacturers ever charge for it given the benefits it has for them (more on that later).
By being connected to the internet all the time, the technology allows you to do some cool things. By downloading an app onto your smartphone, you can do things like track your vehicle’s location (useful for remembering where you parked).
You can also see how much fuel the vehicle has, get alerts to any issues, understand when the next service is due, and check tyre pressures, all in the app.
Where it gets even more interesting is that once setup, you can lock and unlock, and even remote start your vehicle from the app. Yes, this means that you can start the car say 5 minutes before you start driving and cool it down over summer, or warm it up in winter. The climate controls themselves are pre-set, so you can’t change the settings from your phone, but you can adjust them from the vehicle.
I initially thought that the technology was a bit of a gimmick and wasn’t sure if I really valued it. But I have changed my tune a little. The internet connection means that real time traffic data gets overlaid onto the inbuilt satellite navigation system, which is kind of cool. But the app features are more useful than I imagined too.
I found out pretty soon after getting the Ranger, on a night out with the Mrs to a formal function. It turns out that I was supposed to take some trophies to the event, and surprise surprise, I left them in the car. Given a few drinks were planned, I had got an Uber to the venue, and I’d also left the keys in the hotel because I didn’t need them. I was literally turning up to the venue when the Mrs reminded me that I’d left the trophies at the hotel.
I was lucky to be able to keep the same Uber and extend the trip to take me back to the hotel to grab the trophies. Rather than have to head up to the room to grab the keys, I simply hit the unlock button on approach using my smartphone, walked up to the Ranger, grabbed what I needed, and then locked it again with the smartphone as I walked back to the waiting Uber. It saved me about 5 minutes in time.
I’ve also used it to make sure I locked the Ranger after being on autopilot heading into the shops where after about 5 minutes had passed, I realised I didn’t remember locking the vehicle.
And there are a handful of times where on a 30+ degree day I remote started the vehicle to get it to cool down before the family jumped in for a drive somewhere.
It’s not perfect, but its pretty good
The system itself can be a bit clunky, and it is something that also may not work in certain conditions. For example, given it draws power from the battery, so if the vehicle has had auxiliary use, when the battery starts to get low, the functionality can be disabled by the vehicle to save battery and ensure the vehicle will still start. What does this mean? It means you can’t solely rely on FordPass to be able to unlock your vehicle – you need to have a backup plan just in case the battery is low.
The other thing to remember is that if you use the remote start function, the vehicle locks itself before starting as a safety measure. I got caught out recently when I unlocked the vehicle using my phone, then initiated the remote start before throwing my phone on the drivers seat and shutting the door. ½ a second later, the doors locked and my keys and the phone were inside the vehicle as it then started. Luckily with a little lateral thinking I was able to download the Fordpass app onto a mates phone and then use it to unlock the vehicle!
Why I think it will stay free
I eluded before to the fact I don’t think Ford will ever charge for the functionality. Why? Data! Having the modem connected gives Ford access to all of the vehicle telemetry. They know how far the average trip is, how hot the engine gets, where the vehicles are being taken, and potentially how fast people are accelerating and braking. And this is from thousands of vehicle in real life situations. It is data that is amazingly useful for their engineering teams!
It is the future
Whether you like it or not, connected cars will only continue to get more connected, and it won’t be too long before they will drive themselves, and perhaps ownership will be a thing of the past. Welcome to the future!