One aftermarket solution that makes older cars a little bit smarter is a dongle that plugs into the car’s onboard diagnostics, or OBD, port.
Last January, Ford introduced a new gadget it would test in a pilot program that added connected functionality to older cars, the SmartLink.
It functions as a 4G WiFi hotspot, adds an LTE hot spot, gives the driver access to information about the vehicle’s health, allows the car to be tracked, and makes it possible to do things like unlock or lock the car via a smartphone app.
Today, they’re releasing it to the public, and 2010-17 model year Ford vehicles that don’t come with modems will be able to buy and use them. It will be available for purchase mid-2018.
Third parties like Samsung, T-Mobile and Verizon have sold these dongles for years, so it’s interesting that an automaker is releasing its own version since they presumably know more about their cars. That comes in handy for some of the SmartLink’s other features, like allowing smartphone control of existing key fob features, vehicle health and security alerts, and vehicle location tracking.
These cool features don’t come for free: You’ll have to pay $17 per month with a two-year commitment (plus the cost of installation) to get a SmartLink in your vehicle. It comes with a 1GB or 30-day (whichever comes first) trial for Verizon 4G LTE that turns your car into a WiFi hotspot. After that trial ends 4G LTE data will be an additional charge through a data provider.
If you want to keep using it, you’ll have to add the service to their account with the telecom. Those interested can pick up a SmartLink at Ford dealerships starting in mid-2018.