Due next year is the next generation of Ford Motor Co.'s Sync infotainment system that will turn vehicles into Wi-Fi hot spots. All that the occupants have to do is insert a mobile broadband modem (also known as an air card) into a USB port in the vehicle.
Once a connection is established, they can use their existing service plans and their own portable devices (laptops or smart phones) to go onto the Internet.
However, those who have the current version of Sync won't be able to upgrade to the next generation. General Motors Co., Chrysler Group and Volkswagen AG have actually beaten Ford in providing Wi-Fi services in some of their US vehicles.
These 3 carmakers are using routers supplied by San Francisco's Autonet Mobile. The router costs about $500, with service plans starting at $29 a month.
Sync is available throughout most of Ford's lineup. It comes standard on Lincolns and on top-of-the-line Ford and Mercury vehicles while other vehicles offer it as a $395 option.
Most services are free. Ford introduced Sync at the International Consumer Electronics Show in 2007. What Sync basically does is to allow hands-free operation of cell phones and portable music players.
In 2008, Ford added the feature of getting vehicle-diagnostic reports, as well as 911 Assist, which automatically notifies emergency services if a vehicle is involved in a serious crash.
Last year, Ford gave Sync users access to real-time traffic, directions and information such as news, sports and weather. Similar to 911 Assist, the traffic, directions and information service relays information through a mobile phone, which has to be paired with Sync.
For the first three years of vehicle ownership, getting traffic, directions and information is free but costs $60 a year afterward.