Over-the-air software updates to create boon for car industry

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While quite common in smartphones and personal computers, remote over-the-air (OTA) software updates are still only in their infancy in the automotive space, according to a new report from research firm IHS.

Photo credit: gtinsider.com
Photo credit: gtinsider.com

The report found that over-the-air (OTA) software updates will eventually be a big boon for the automotive industry due to their capacity to reduce warranty costs, potentially increase overall completion rates for software-related recalls, improve customer satisfaction by eliminating trips to the dealership for software upgrades or fixes, and provide the ability to upgrade functionality and add features to automotive infotainment systems over a vehicle?s lifetime.

According to IHS estimates, total worldwide OEM cost savings from OTA software update events will grow from $2.7 billion in 2015 (primarily from savings related to updating telematics systems) to more than $35 billion in 2022 (with telematics and infotainment system updates comprising most of the savings).

?It is clear that OEM cost savings from OTA software updates will be the most valuable part of this technology ? by far,? said Egil Juliussen, director and principal analyst for automotive technology at IHS Automotive, and one of the report?s co-authors.

Japanese OEMs have been pioneers in navigation map updates in Japan via their telematics systems. BMW, VW, and Tesla have all recently announced OTA procedures for updating navigation maps.

Hyundai and Ford both have proof of concept systems for OTA map updates, and will also likely deploy such systems in the near term.

Total vehicles in operations that are enabled with map OTA updates are projected to grow from approximately 1.2 million units in 2015 to nearly 32 million units by 2022, according to IHS forecasts.

App OTA updates are embedded applications or feature-driven software that is part of infotainment systems such as head-units or telematics systems. This segment is furthest along, with remote software upgrades having been available for several years.

The software programs are relatively small in total memory and there are limited associated safety issues; therefore, it is the easiest segment to implement.

Toyota is a leader in this segment using Nuance Dragon Drive, which Nuance acquired from UIEvolution. Both FCA and Nissan have OTA platforms for app updates.

IHS expects all major OEMs to introduce app OTA updates by 2019. App OTA update-enabled vehicles in operation total approximately nearly 3 million vehicles in 2015; by 2022, IHS expects that to increase to 53.8 million vehicles.

Infotainment software OTA updates are more complex than software app updates because the programs can be quite large ? especially if parts of the OS software need to be updated.

Large infotainment software OTA updates may occur over Wi-Fi rather than through LTE 4G service due to mobile network limitations.

This category is emerging and will be a growth segment in the next five years, with players like Ford, Chrysler and GM expected to adopt these systems.

Infotainment software updates, such as updates to the infotainment OS and user interface, will grow quickly over the next six years, starting from just over 200,000 units in 2015.

According to IHS estimates, vehicles equipped with infotainment software OTA capabilities will increase to more than 96.4 million enabled vehicles by 2022.

?Software expertise is becoming a core competency for auto OEMs and it starts with a good software platform strategy, followed by strong software development and execution,” said Colin Bird, senior analyst of software, apps and services at IHS.

?The OEMs that use software platforms most effectively will be able to save development, maintenance and other costs and will use more reliable software code. In fact, OTA updates have the ability to fundamentally transform the sales and customer retention models for OEMs by allowing these companies to maintain their relationship with customers directly throughout the lifecycle of ownership.?

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