Ford will turn older cars into Wi-Fi hotspots

This Feb. 15, 2018, file photo shows a Ford logo on the grill of a 2018 Ford Explorer on display at the Pittsburgh Auto Show. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Ford announced on Tuesday that it will soon launch a device that brings Wi-Fi connectivity and other technology upgrades to older models.

FordPass SmartLink, a Verizon 4G LTE-enabled device that plugs into the on-board diagnostics (OBD) port below the steering wheel, will allow owners of 2010 to 2017 Ford models to equip their vehicles with wireless hotspots, remote key fob through a mobile app, vehicle health information and location tracking.

SmartLink will launch nationwide through Ford dealers beginning mid-2018. It will cost $16.99 a month for 24 months, plus installation, to purchase the plug-in device and receive telematics services. Customers will also receive a trial of Verizon’s mobile hotspot service.

Smartphone controls and Wi-Fi connectivity have only been available in newer Fords that feature built-in modems. Ford said all of its new vehicles will come with wireless connectivity by 2019.

General Motors first offered 4G LTE wireless hotspots—backed by AT&T—in its 2015 models. For cars dating back to 2010, the company offers the ability to control vehicle functions through a mobile app and OnStar.

Ford’s move to retrofit older models with new technology comes as automakers race to improve infotainment systems and mobile integration. Ford partnered with Amazon last year to connect vehicles with Alexa, the e-commerce giant’s voice-command technology. The company recently announced that it will soon provide over-the-air car updates. Meanwhile, GM launched a new Marketplace app for infotainment systems in Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC vehicles. The app allows drivers to place orders with Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, among other retail partners.