The 2021 Ford F-150 ushers in the 14th generation of the iconic nameplate, and with it brings a load of upgraded tech and features. These include things like the optional 12-inch center display with Ford’s SYNC 4 infotainment system, Co-Pilot 360 Driver-Assist Technologies, and the Pro Power Onboard generator. While all of these features are intriguing on their own, the fact that they are supported by over the air updates is a potential game changer for customers. Recently, we were able to catch up with F-150 Chief Engineer Craig Schmatz to discuss the truck’s OTA update capability.
Tesla was the first company to offer OTA updates for their Model S sedan all the way back in 2012. Since then, we have seen the technology trickle out across the industry. The 2021 Ford F-150 joins the Mustang Mach-E as the first vehicles in the Blue Oval’s lineup to offer the feature. Don’t expect the software to be any less potent just because this is a first effort from Ford, however. In fact, it appears the capabilities are quite broad by design. Since the Ford F-150 Lightning doesn’t seem to be coming back anytime soon, the cutting-edge capabilities of OTA are a solid consolation.
“Nearly every module on the truck can be OTA – nearly 50 or 60 of them,” said Schmatz in an interview with MC&T.
Adding a different driving mode? Yes. Re-calibrate a control module? Yes. Spark/timing? Yes. Adjusting these components via a software update is completely on the table.
With nearly every module on the 2021 Ford F-150 OTA update compatible, the automaker has the capability to keep evolving the truck. While software updates aren’t new, the ability to add entirely new features from home is something we haven’t seen in a truck before. The updated pickup may not be in customers driveways yet, but that hasn’t stopped Ford from already working on some new features for future OTA updates.
“We have the hardware there for the Active Drive Assist, we’ll have the software by the summer,” said Schmatz. “ We’ll push it over the air. Even small things that aren’t on the truck today… Let’s say we had a new powertrain calibration and we found a new way to get a bit more fuel economy, we can push that. Or something that requires customers to go back (to the dealer), they don’t have to anymore… if they can actually push (to install the software update) then there’s no need to chase customers.”
It appears then that OTA updates will provide both the automaker and its customers a more care-free ownership experience. Not only does one not have to spend the time to head to the local dealer for an update, but the updates themselves should take no time at all from home.
“Downloads will happen in the background, said Schmatz. “The download won’t happen unless customers schedule it and accept it when it’s ready to be updated. Maximum downtime is 30 minutes.”
The 2021 Ford F-150 may not be the first vehicle on the market to receive an OTA update feature, but it is certainly the most popular vehicle to adopt this method. While we will have to wait and see what sort of updates Ford has in store for buyers, we’re sure this feature will be used frequently.