The computerization of the modern automobile continues…

Here’s the cool thing about over-the-air (OTA) updates – you don’t have to do anything. Nope, just sit back, maybe tap an “Install Now” icon, and let the software geeks handle the rest. It’s the sort of convenience we’ve come to expect when dealing with our smartphones, but pretty soon, it’ll be commonplace on the road as well.

That’s the word from ABI Research, which recently released a study that looked at technology trends related to the automotive industry, as reported by USA Today. The study found that by the year 2022, 200 million vehicles will be eligible to receive OTA software updates, offering quick fixes for bugs, but also increases in performance and newly added features.

For the moment, Tesla is really the only major auto manufacturer with regular OTA updates, although some auto parts suppliers have been pushing the tech for some time now.

According to the report, up to a third of all recalls could be fixed with OTA updates in the next five years, potentially saving the industry a whopping $6 billion.

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The Full Story

Technology moves mighty quick these days, especially in the realm of wireless. Traditionally, cars have struggled to keep pace, because after all, you can’t really modify metal, rubber, plastic, and glass with ones and zeroes.

However, software is starting to play a much bigger role in the automotive sector, and while you probably won’t be able to rotate your tires with an app any time soon, there are still plenty of other features caught up in the digital revolution.

Here’s an example – last year, FCA had to update its UConnect infotainment system after news broke of a vulnerability that enabled hackers to take control of the car’s various systems, including the stereo, transmission, and even the brakes. FCA recommended owners update their software by downloading a patch onto a flash drive and installing it themselves, or alternatively, bringing the car in for service. The incident underlined the need for flexible, rapid response updates for major issues like security vulnerabilities.

But that’s all to be expected, because as wireless technology takes hold in every corner of our lives, new problems are bound to creep up. In fact, the USA Today report says that last year, 3.3 million vehicles were affected by software-only recalls, making for a five-fold increase compared to 2014. So far, it’s looking like that number is only gonna increase over time.

So that’s the bad news. The good news is we’ll get a ton of benefits as well – expect the very latest apps and entertainment sent directly to your head unit, as well as greater performance and efficiency thanks to tweaked fuel maps and altered gear ratios. Navigation will also see a boost in accuracy. And with instant updates, it’s possible we’ll see an overall decline in recalls – if a problem is identified, it’ll get fixed overnight.

However, the really big changes will appear when autonomous tech finally hits its stride in the next decade or so. Once the machines take the wheel, OTA updates will be absolutely critical. Every mile traveled is a mile added to the collective intelligence of autonomous driving systems, and OTA updates enable that information to be shared quickly and efficiently.

Source: USA Today

Jonathan Lopez
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