Study: More cars will get automatic software updates

September 3, 2016

“Streaming updates to cars is going to be a big play for the auto industry,” said Scott Frank, marketing vice president of Airbiquity, a Seattle-based company specializing in connected-car services. “It’s central to a lot of new things we’re working on.

“Phones and TVs are already updateable. Your car will be, too.”

The number of features that can be affected will surprise you. The first steps will include connecting to the cloud for entertainment and security functions, but Frank says nearly every aspect of how vehicles operate will be affected.

Many updates that now require a trip to the dealer for a software flash — Hyundai’s addition of Apple CarPlay to cars it had sold, for instance — will be handled by beaming new software to the vehicle. Software-only recalls — ideal candidates for streaming updates — affected 3.3 million vehicles in the U.S. last year. That’s nearly a five-fold increase from 2014, a trend likely to continue as vehicles add more software and electronics.

Updates will include fixes, new security to keep up with would-be hackers, and adding features.

“Adding features and improving performance post-purchase is a game-changer for the industry,” Frank said. Potential examples include new transmission programming to increase fuel economy, updated navigation information, and new infotainment apps.

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