Today’s modern vehicles are increasingly mirroring the digital devices we have come to surround us with, making those technology companies that can enable wireless software updates a hot commodity for automakers.
The traditional, global manufacturers have been slow to adopt new technologies but after the turn of the century the accelerated pace of technological advancement has finally made them catch the “fever” – and today’s autos are more than ever “computers on wheels”. And then there are new entries such as Tesla Motors, which has been using one killer feature for its flagship Model S – over-the-air updates, or OTAs. The technology is known to anyone using a smartphone – certain functions, applications or the entire operating system can be seamlessly updated and upgraded. And the same can happen now to cars – for example Tesla will deliver its semi-autonomous feature as OTA update this month. “Tesla has made great strides in raising the profile of OTA, making it appear somewhat sexy by showing how features could be added,” comments Strategy Analytics consultant Roger Lanctot.
This has led global automakers trying to catch up and deliver their own OTA updates, though they face more serious challenges here as they need to make software compatible with internal combustion engines, alleviate dealer worries about losing an important source of revenue and also cope with the rising security concerns. This has spurned major investment movements, such as audio products maker Harman International Industries acquiring for $170 million Israeli OTA firm Redbend or Silicon Valley-based Symphony Teleca, another OTA competitor, for $780 million.