Update, update, update.
Connectivity has become one of the top priorities when it comes to buying a car, outweighing many other vehicle features we once cherished. Whether we like it or not, our lives are constantly centred around technology, be it communicating through our smartphones or trying to stream our new favorite tv series. Connectivity is everywhere, and our vehicles are no exception. Drivers are detaching themselves from the traditional driving experience, and are increasingly concerned with linking their phone with their car’s infotainment system to listen to music or communicate while on the move. The car is becoming the home-away-from-home, even more so when fully autonomous software is introduced later, which will eventually remove driver input entirely. Automakers are now starting to appreciate the growing demand for the connected car, training their dealerships and other personnel to provide the expertise their customers demand. This is the inevitable future of personal transportation. However, these manufacturers can only go so far on their own, with the risk of glitches and security breaches getting higher, which must lead to a range of collaborations with software experts from the technology industry. Collaboration is key.
Today, most vehicles are connected through the Internet of Things which, although an industry-wide innovation, has opened up a number of problems regarding automotive cyber security. Industry experts have warned that this aggressive expansion of vehicle technology may pose a threat to inexperienced automakers, who may lack the knowledge to protect their systems from breaches. There will also be problems with outdated systems, due to the speed of software evolution, as technology cycles last around five years at the very most. Unlike computers and phones that are typically used for around three years, the average ownership of the vehicle is more than a decade, meaning manufacturers could leave customers in the dark if they cannot afford a new vehicle or updated system every couple of years. To counter this, over-the-air (OTA) updates are essential to the connected car’s development. This kind of technology has been used within other industries for as long as I can remember, so why can’t it be utilised universally the same way in the automotive world?
Currently, only a handful of OEMs are implementing OTA updates, enabling them to improve and tweak certain aspects of the vehicle while it sits on its owner’s drive. Electric vehicles (EV) are pioneering this technology, some are even at the stage where they can improve anything from performance upgrades to fixing issues remotely - a sight I hope we will become accustomed to. No one wants to drive to the dealership for a recall, we’ve got better things to do on our Saturday afternoons. Now the next step is to standardise OTA in the industry and find ways to apply it to more traditional powertrains, such as internal combustion cars with their much smaller batteries. Once we can overcome issues such as this, while overhauling vehicle software with the help of software specialists, we can be in touching distance of the quintessential connected car.
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