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Are Vehicles Close to Becoming Immortal?

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May 5, 2020—Predictions indicate that vehicles are on their way to becoming much more adaptable than ever before. With today's vehicle technology that sets up a car similar to a smartphone, cars like Teslas are able to receive over-the-air software updates.

Tesla, however, is no longer the only automaker to be offering over-the-air updates.

Tesla has sent over-the-air updates to cars since around 2012 but recently other automakers like Ford and General Motors also implemented the updates.These automakers announced they planned to roll out this capability around 2020. Ford vehicles are rolling out of assembly lines as of this year with built-in cellular data modems. These updates can help fix maintenance issues, engine malfunctions, changes to the vehicle's physical parts, electronic signal processing system and more.

General Motors informs its car owners that these updates can be performed by a servicing dealer or an independent service center.

During a software-over-the-air update, a file is downloaded the car after having been sent from a cloud-based server across a WiFi or mobile network. The update is sent either directly to the vehicle or to the owner's device and then uploaded, for example, through a Bluetooth connection. 

So, as more automakers incorporate this option for vehicles, the auto industry is witnessing how a sort of "immortal car" is being born, according to a Cars.com report.  Through software updates, the model of predictive maintenance, planned obsolescence and replacement of a vehicle is changing.

Now, repairers might be seeing some of the repairs they could perform, being sent out over a software update to the car. On the other hand, the updates do open the door for updates done wrong that could be equivalent to a repairer performing a faulty repair. 

Older vehicles now have the opportunity to be driven longer through some of these updates. Think about it. If an older car receives a software update with a safety feature that is on newer model year cars, then that older car can once again hold its own in the market.

 

Evolution of Updating Tesla Cars

2012: Tesla starts pushing updates to Model X and Model S vehicles. One example is the "creep" mode it added to allow cars move slowly when the driver's foot was off the accelerator.

2013: After a Model S was damaged by road debris, Tesla pushed an update to raise the ride height of the car.

2014: Tesla released an update to fix a recall issue of a potential fire risk. 

 

The Shop Effect

While over-the-air updates might make it easier for a customer to receive some simple fixes without having to schedule service at a service department or a repair shop, it does not mean repair shops will see the end of these repairs. 

For example, Tesla's updates require the customer to opt-in to receiving them. The customer has to go to its "control" setting and then to the "software" option to view if any updates are available and schedule a time to receive the update. The customer cannot drive the car when these software updates are being installed.

Some car repairs simply cannot be fixed. When a Tesla car was recalled for repairs on its seats that were not attached properly, drivers were required to bring them into the service repair shop for a fix. 

Updates also have the ability to be a game changer for OEMS to lower vehicle recall rates and trips to the service center. Krishna Jayaraman, automotive and transportation industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan, discussed with ADAPT's sister publication, Ratchet+Wrench, a few years ago, what the potential growth of over-the-air updates meant for repair shops.

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