Sprint provides wireless links for smart Ford trucks, vans

By , Computerworld |  Mobile & Wireless, automotive, Sprint Nextel

Sprint Nextel Inc. today announced that it is providing wireless connections to Ford Motor Co. trucks and vans that are equipped with in-dashboard PCs. The specialized 2009 Ford F-Series trucks and E-Series vans are now being shipped to dealerships, according to Sprint.

Ford unveiled the smart vehicle technology at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2008, more than a year ago. Sprint today announced that the system uses its CDMA-EVDO network.

According to an online Ford brochure ( download PDF), the system includes a dashboard-mounted, Internet capable 4Gbyte PC with a 6.5-inch touch screen and a wireless keyboard. It runs the Windows CE 6.0 operating system. Hands-free calling capability is supported through Bluetooth wireless and capable mobile phones, Ford said.

The feature will add $1,195 to the base cost of each vehicle, and Sprint will charge $50 a month for wireless access, according to Ford.

Ford is also offering related services with the in-vehicle computer, including an RFID system for locating tools called Tool LInk that adds $1,120 to the cost of a vehicle, and a vehicle fleet tracking system called Crew Chief that starts at $380 per vehicle with a $20 monthly charge. The Mirolise Group's Crew Chief is an application provides drivers with location, fuel usage and other information.

Ford and Sprint said the smart technology will also be offered in the Transit Connect commercial minivan line, which is slated to be available in the U.S. this summer.

Ford's brochure says that certain functions on the PC will not work while the vehicle is in motion, but didn't elaborate. A Sprint spokesman said that drivers are expected to stop the vehicle when working on the PC. "Many of these trucks are on construction job sites all day and this solution can provide an office in a vehicle," said spokesman Aaron Radelet.

He said a field service or construction worker can use the PC to modify change orders or estimates and engineers can review and edit blueprints in the field.

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