Anyone lucky enough to get an F-150 Lightning in the next few months will find that one of the features they may have opted for is missing: the ability to unlock and control the electric truck using a phone. According to screenshots of Special Service Message notices and in-app messages posted to the Lightning Owners’ Forum, Ford will be rolling out support for its Phone as a Key system in “late summer 2022” via a software update instead of shipping it with the truck at launch.
Ford’s Phone as a Key system lets you use its FordPass app to unlock and start your vehicle, as well as control various things like the windows, lights, and front trunk. What makes the delay slightly puzzling is that this isn’t new tech from Ford — the company introduced it on a few 2020 Lincoln models, and it’s also available in its other battery EV, the Mustang Mach-E.
Ford’s F-150 Lightning site notes that the feature is limited to “select vehicles,” but it doesn’t seem to say anything about it not being available yet. However, a document posted to the Lightning Owners’ Forum and dated May 16th lists a requirement for dealers to tell customers about the missing feature before they take delivery of the truck (assuming they purchased one of the Lariat or Platinum trims that features it).
Members of the forum have speculated that the delay could have something to do with a recently announced Bluetooth Low Energy vulnerability that researchers say leaves passive entry systems using the tech open to attack. The F-150 Lightning, along with other cars from the likes of Tesla, uses Bluetooth LE to tell when your phone is close by, but the vulnerability makes it possible to basically trick a system into thinking your phone is there.
Despite the speculation, Ford spokesperson Emma Bergg told The Verge in an email that the delay is “unrelated” to the vulnerability, saying that it’s instead because “additional work is required to ensure reliability” of the feature.
It’s worth noting that this feature is Ford’s own and isn’t related to the digital car key features baked into Android and iOS. Of course, as we saw with the Mustang Mach-E and Apple’s EV routing system, Ford going with those systems wouldn’t necessarily have meant fewer delays.
While it’s a bummer that the F-150 Lightning is making it to customers’ driveways without all its features, that’s something that’s becoming common in the age of chip shortages and supply chain woes. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like you’ll have to take your truck into the shop to get the feature added (though the dealership document does note that it may be possible to get the upcoming software update a bit earlier by doing so). My colleague Andrew Hawkins recently did a first drive of the F-150 Lightning, and it sounds like its a great truck — hopefully, the experience of being one of the first to own one won’t be dampened too much by having to use one of its included key fobs for a few months.
Update Thursday May 19th, 6:07PM ET: Added comment from Ford clarifying that the delay is unrelated to the Bluetooth LE vulnerability.