F-150 Truck Goes High-tech

by : Anthony Fontanelle

FoMoCo brings new meaning to "remote office" term. The automaker announced last Wednesday at the media preview of the Chicago Auto Show that a set of high-tech features for its F-Series trucks and E-Series vans including the best-selling F-150. The auto show is open to the public from February 8 to 17.

The high-tech offers of the 2009 include a broadband-capable in-dash computer, Tool Link tracking system that has embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) capabilities for logging tools and inventory on the truck; and Crew Chief, a telematics and diagnostics system. These features are expected to be available in Ford's new vehicles in the fall.

The truck's built-in computer, powered by Microsoft Auto, is located in the middle of the dashboard. It offers a 6.5-inch touch screen, 2GB of memory capable of entertaining expansion, and a USB port.

The Tool Link feature lets users mark their tools with RFID tags. When the tools are not returned to the pickup boxes, the computer flashes a warning on the computer screen.

"It helps contractors and tradespeople guarantee they show up at the job site with the right tools for each job - and that they don't leave equipment behind," said William Frykman, the automaker's product development manager. Additionally, the computer also tells fleet managers precisely where the truck is. This is an effort to make easier truckers work. The system also features an 8-foot steel cable used to avoid auto theft.

The new F-150 truck offers V-8 engines ranging from a 4.6-liter to a 5.4-liter engine which can run on E85. The truck is also equipped with either a four-speed or a six-speed automatic transmission to bolster performance and handling.

"Our truck customers are smart - and they work hard," said Mark Fields, Ford's president. "Ford Work Solutions provides truck customers new technologies and tools to help them work even smarter and further boost their productivity."

The Dearborn automaker said that dealers will be able to install some of the features in existing Ford truck models.

The new vehicles are engineered for business. And there are two companies responsible for that milestone - Garmin International and Sprint Mobile Broadband Network. Internet access is provided via the Sprint and navigation capabilities by Garmin.

Separately, the automaker announced Wednesday the Transit Connect, a compact van engineered to respond to the needs of small-business owners. Already on the roads in Europe, it is now coming to North America. The van features a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. The cargo space can accommodate loads that are 6.5 feet long and 4.7 feet wide.