In a move it says will save both time and money, Ford has become the first automaker to start downloading vehicle-specific software for its new MyFord Touch systems via dedicated Wi-Fi access points on the assembly line. The first facility to adopt this innovation will be the Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant, home of 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. Next on the Wi-Fi trail will be Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant that makes the new 2011 Ford Explorer. Other Ford global manufacturing facilities will be rolled online in the months ahead, starting with European plants that will build the new Ford Focus.

"Using wireless software installation via Wi-Fi, we can stock just one type of SYNC module powering MyFord Touch and loaded with a basic software package," explained Sukhwinder Wadhwa, SYNC global platform manager. "We eliminate around 90 unique part numbers, each of which would have to be updated every time a change is made. This system really boosts quality control."

According to Wadhwa, transitioning to Wi-Fi downloading demanded a new and exacting kind of operational discipline "Turning an assembly plant -- with steel beams everywhere and high-voltage cabling throughout; everything you could imagine that would interfere with a radio signal -- into an access point that would achieve 100 percent success was a huge challenge." However, at the end of the day, the Wi-Fi connection can download and configure up to 300 megabytes of SYNC-related data in each vehicle, including unique applications, market-specific languages and option-specific graphics/icons. Beyond its current benefits, Ford also envisions even more benefits to this wireless approach in the future as downloading capabilities are enhaned and even more features and services add added to the current and already expansive SYNC menu.

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