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Ford Adds RFID To F-150

Using an on-dash, touch-screen computer that displays information about what equipment is in the truck, drivers can ensure that they leave for job sites with the correct tools.
Ford Motor Co.'s most important vehicle, the Ford F-150, is going high-tech.

Ford will offer radio frequency identification technology for tracking work tools in its 2009 F-150 trucks. Ford debuted the technology at the Chicago Auto Show, which opened to the public Friday.

F-150 drivers who use their trucks for jobs will be able to affix RFID tags to tools and construction equipment that can be read and recognized by RFID antennas installed within the vehicle. Using an on-dash, touch-screen computer that displays information about what equipment is in the truck, drivers can ensure that they leave for job sites with the correct tools and depart from sites without having left any tools behind. Drivers can program lists of equipment needed for specific types of jobs into the computer, which can also be accessed by a keyboard and mouse, and then check equipment on board against those lists. Ford partnered with RFID company ThingMagic and industrial power-tool company DeWalt to develop the new option.

The technology will also be available in F-Series Super Duty pickup trucks and E-Series vans. But it's particularly important in Ford's attempt to keep the F-150 -- the best-selling vehicle in the Unites States every year for more than 20 years -- ahead of models from Toyota, General Motors, and other competitors gaining on its heels, by offering customers the latest conveniences and technologies.

Ford sold 690,589 F-Series trucks last year in the United States, most of them F-150s, which accounted for one out of every four vehicles it sold, according to J.D. Power and Associates' Power Information Network. All Ford F-150s also will be offered with Ford/Microsoft Sync hands-free technology, Sirius Travel Link, and voice-activated navigation.

RFID is not new to the auto industry, although most applications for it have been for asset tracking in manufacturing plants and in car clickers used to unlock autos. In 2007, 5.8 million RFID tags were used in vehicles, and 47 million tags were used in car clickers, according to research firm IDTechEX.

Ford will also offer the RFID capability as a dealer option for customers to install in their current vehicles. Pricing on F-150 trucks is expected in the spring, and the trucks should be in showrooms by the fall.

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