Automotive Blog

Restart your car to continue driving


A taste of things to come?  In what is being reported as a first for the automotive sector, Tesla are about to ‘push’ operating system software updates wirelessly to over 100 of its Model S EVs already out on the roads.  The software, which will patch the car’s core systems and recalibrate the range indicator on the dashboard, will be distributed via the embedded 3G mobile connection in the car, and also via the driver’s home wi-fi network if the car is able to connect to it.  Drivers will be alerted to the update, and given the chance to schedule it for a convenient time (the car will need to be parked for the 2 hours the update will take), but they will not be able to opt out of the process.

EVs, including the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt (Opel Ampera) and Tesla’s Model S, are proving a useful test-bed for telematics technologies, partly due to the EV’s need to be in contact with the supporting infrastructure, especially for range prediction and charging.  But such technologies are spreading rapidly into more mainstream products, and it is surely only a matter of time before cars ‘check in’ for software updates on a regular basis, in much the same way as our PCs and Macs have been doing for years.

The prospect of cars being remotely configured and updated raises a number of questions that the sector will need to address; here are just a few.  Traditionally, software updates have been performed by dealers, often without the customer even knowing, whilst the car is in the workshop for regular service.  What will happen to this dealer role?  If an independent garage encounters a car where the driver has ignored an update warning, will they need to perform the update process themselves before they can complete any other jobs?  If the driver is made aware via the car’s on-board screen of the need for software updates on a regular basis, will this alter their perception of the quality of the car?  And, if an update brings new or improved functionality (as might be the case today with navigation system updates), then should the customer be charged (just as you would be to upgrade the Apple iOS on your iPhone), or will updates be bundled into the overall acquisition package?  Either way, this implies a more direct, ongoing, and systematic relationship between the car and driver, and the manufacturer; and we would call this a taste of things to come.

Source: Wired. Image: Tesla


Written by Andrew Tongue

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