In Detail: 2011 Audi A8, 2012 Ford Focus WiFi
TRANSLOGIC 50 takes a look at two specific cars: the 2011 Audi A8 and the 2012 Ford Focus. Granted, these cars have essentially nothing in common except for the fact that they're both taking in-car connectivity to a new level. But, each represents a dramatically different approach. The Audi uses a more hardware based approach. When opting for WiFi on the Audi A8, a WLAN signal is broadcast throughout the interior of the car. The needed hardware is built into the car's roof mounted antenna and a SIM card is installed when the vehicle is delivered to the US. That SIM card means a separate data plan from the one you likely have associated with your phone already. T-Mobile customers (the only carrier that can provide the Audi data plan) can get a phone that will interface with their car, but docking is required, as opposed to a wireless connection. Once you have that plan, features like an in-car hotspot and Google Earth for the nav system become available.
The Ford approach is more software based. In fact, the Focus' ability to create a WiFi hotspot is a byproduct of the system's original purpose, which is to wirelessly install software during the assembly of the car. Ford says "The new on-the-assembly-line WiFi capability eliminates the need for building, stocking and storing multiple Sync hardware modules, thus reducing manufacturing complexity and saving cost." Not only does this wireless method of installing software save parts, time and expenses, it also make it easier to update to future versions.
Vehicles such as the 2011 Ford Edge, 2011 Lincoln MKX and new Ford Explorer also get the WiFi treatment since the MyFord or MyLincoln Touch software on these vehicles is also installed wirelessly. Since the MyFord or MyLincoln Touch system includes an 8-inch touch screen, the ability to browse the internet while the car is parked will soon be available. This is all powered by a users existing cell phone and data plan so no extra charges or subscriptions are needed. The WiFi feature does require a USB modem but that's it. Ford rep Alan Hall put it this way; "You already have your data enabled phone with you everywhere you go, why not make the most of it."
Ford and Audi aren't the only automakers that offer a rolling hotspot option for your car. The 2011 Subaru Outback offers in-car WiFi as a dealer installed option. It requires additional hardware at a cost of $499 plus a $29 per month subscription. Like the Focus, it's a fairly impressive feature considering the Outback's $23,000 base price. Chrysler also offers an in-car hotspot in Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles. It is a dealer installed, Mopar Accessory and, like the Subaru system, it is hardware based. The hardware is provided by Autonet Mobile for both Subaru and Chrysler.
The main difference here is that the Ford system is built in the car while other automakers are taking a built on approach.
Click the image below to watch TRANSLOGIC 50: Audi A8, Ford Focus, Pioneer