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Ford wants to turn your car into a Wi-Fi hotspot

4G-powered wireless internet service promised for later this year.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Lost your car? Soon your smartwatch will be able to help you to find it.

Image: Ford

Motor giant Ford is adding a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot to some of its models, beginning later this year.

The in-car Wi-Fi hotspot will use AT&T's 4G LTE network for connectivity and can support up to 10 devices at a time. When the vehicle is parked, the Wi-Fi is accessible from up to 50 feet away because of an external antenna, which improves the signal strength.

SYNC Connect Wi-Fi hotspot users can monitor data usage, signal strength and connected devices, plus block certain devices and change settings on the SYNC 3 touch screen. They can also use FordPass to view Wi-Fi data usage and link to AT&T's account management portal.

New car buyers of vehicles with the Wi-Fi hotspot -- which will go on sale in the autumn -- will get a trial subscription of three months or 3GB, whichever comes first, after which users will need an AT&T data plan.

Ford also noted: "Don't drive while distracted. Use voice-operated systems when possible, and don't use handheld devices while driving."

Companies like Ford are trying to take advantage of the increasing computing power embedded into vehicles to create new revenue streams, in a bid to diversify their business and move away from reliance on simply selling new vehicles.

The new service was announced at the CES show, where Ford also said its cars will be able to send messages to wearers of Samsung Gear S2 and S3 smartwatches via the new Gear Auto Link app, due in the spring.

After parking, drivers will receive a prompt on their smartwatch asking if they want to log the parking spot, which is picked up from the vehicle's GPS. For vehicles inside a parking garage, the driver can type the level, column and other location indicators into the watch, so that on their return to the vehicle, drivers can receive directions to navigate back to the parking spot using the watch.

Drivers can also use their smartwatch to stay alert by using the Gear to set chimes and voice alerts at three-, five-, 10-, 15- or 20-minute intervals while on the road. Ford said future versions of the app will vibrate the watch as an added way to help keep the driver alert.

The company also announced that it is building Amazon's Alexa voice-controlled digital assistant into some car models.

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