A technology common to smartphones, computers and smart TVs is finally making its way into the automotive industry. Over-the-Air (OTA) updates will change the way cars perform as they get older by providing system upgrades without needing as much take-it-to-the-shop maintenance.

With OTA technology, automakers will have the ability to trim down warranty expenses and improve their completion rates for software related recall work. It also offers the opportunity to improve customer satisfaction by reducing time spent at a dealership for software related updates or repairs, as well as adding features to automotive infotainment systems. In other words, it could help drivers keep their cars updated with some of the latest and greatest advances in driving without having to buy a completely new vehicle.

What Can OTA Updates Do?

According to Colin Bird, a Senior Analyst of Automotive Technology at IHS Automotive, OTA updates provide the following capabilities:OTA

  • Navigation map OTA updates: "BMW, Audi and Tesla have recently announced OTA procedures for updating navigation maps. Hyundai and Ford/Lincoln both have proof of concept systems for OTA map updates. Total map OTA enabled car sales are projected to grow from 397,000 units in 2015 to over 10M units by 2022."
  • Infotainment software application (app) updates: "These are embedded applications or feature-driven software that is part of infotainment systems such as head-units or telematics systems. Toyota is a leader in this segment using Nuance Dragon Drive. Today, app OTA update enabled car sales total approximately 1.3 million vehicles in 2015; by 2022, IHS expects that to increase to 17.6 million vehicles."
  • Infotainment/operating software OTA updates: "This category is emerging and will be a growth segment in the next five years. Infotainment software updates, such as updates to the infotainment operating system and user interface, will grow quickly over the next half decade starting from a 0.21M units in 2015, vehicles equipped with infotainment SW OTA capabilities increasing to nearly 34 million enabled vehicles by 2022."
  • Telematic Control Unit (TCU) software OTA updates: "GM OnStar and Verizon telematics-based systems have OTA capabilities. Companies using embedded app updates are also expected to have TCU updates via tethered smartphone. Over 4.6 million TCU OTA enabled vehicles will be delivered in 2015, with a forecasted 14.7 million in 2022. A total of 160 million vehicles with TCU OTA capabilities will be on the road by 2022."
  • Core ECU software updates: "OTA deployment for this segment is rare and only Tesla has publicly said it is updating core auto ECUs. Tesla included OTA features in the basic design. The attach rate for core ECU OTA updates is very low in 2015, at 0.04 percent of vehicles and is expected to increase to 12.4 percent by 2022."

According to Bird, "Software expertise is becoming a core competency for OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers). OEMs with well-designed software platforms will save on development, maintenance and other costs, and will improve software code reliability. OTA updates have the ability to transform sales and customer retention models by allowing companies to maintain relationships directly with customers throughout ownership. This could have a significant impact on sales retention, customer satisfaction, brand equity and dealer networks."

Getting the Best Car for You Today

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