In-Car Tech

What are over-the-air updates for cars and how do they work?

Vehicles can receive updates to their computer systems via an embedded modem.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

While cars have a load of mechanical parts that keep them moving, they also are largely computerized these days. As quickly as an iPhone ages, so does the technology in your car. The evolution is continuous from the screen you use to control the radio to the mapping system and beyond.

Automakers used to control updates to in-car computer systems tightly. They'd sell a few navigation system updates as part of a bundle and require owners to stop by and wait, inevitably browsing the selection in the showroom, while their vehicle was serviced by a tech who inserted a card into a slot that contained new information that would be loaded into the navigation system.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Here, a Ford engineer tests the over-the-air updates system inside the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Sometimes there would be necessary updates for the vehicle's operating system that needed to occur as part of a recall. That would require another trip to the dealer.

Want the newest software available for your infotainment screen? You guessed it. You need to schedule another service appointment at the dealership.

For many vehicle owners, when they purchase a new car, truck, van, or SUV, they won't have to head to the dealership and get an update for their car's computer system once they've purchased. They can receive those over-the-air (OTA) updates in their driveway, garage, or in a parking deck. Really anywhere their vehicle can get a solid signal from the skies above.

This is thanks to a modem that is installed in their vehicle. The modem downloads the update (either automatically or when owners opt to have it happen post-notification) then conduct the software update, many times while the vehicle is not in motion. However, some vehicles have the ability to do the whole process in the background while you're on the road, with little disruption to the vehicle's operations.

The time it takes to download an update varies by the size of the update as well as modem connectivity and speed capability. This is similar to how your computer, tablet, or smartphone downloads an update then tells you it's ready to update (if you've selected notifications) or it lets you know that your device has been updated (if you've selected automatic updates).

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E can perform most updates in around two minutes.

Ideally it will work seamlessly each time.

You may be wondering if you need to pay the monthly fee to Verizon or AT&T to have the modem connected to the internet in order to be the beneficiary of these updates. The answer is no. The updates will be pushed over-the-air to the proper vehicle regardless of whether of not you have an internet connectivity subscription.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The 2021 Ford F-150 will come in a hybrid variant

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

If Ford is making anything clear these days, it’s that the future all-electric F-150 won’t just just a mundane street car. The future model will be capable of achieving the same feats as the rest of the company’s family of full-size pickup trucks, if not with more gusto than its relatives.

Ford has confirmed that the battery-electric (BEV) F-150 will be on sale in just a few years. To get to that point, there’s a lot of work that isn’t just going into product development, but also into facilities development. Demand for the F-150 BEV is expected to be high and Ford’s Rouge Complex can’t absorb it as the plant stands now.

Ford Rouge Complex The Ford plant in Dearborn will be the home of the F-150 electric truck.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The company will invest $700 million in the Dearborn, Michigan plant to include a new high-tech manufacturing home for the model. The investment will add 300 jobs. This $700 million is on top of the $1.45 billion that Ford is spending to equip its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan to produce the Ranger and Bronco.

"We are proud to once again build and innovate for the future here at the Rouge with the debut of our all-new F-150 and the construction of a modern new manufacturing center to build the first-ever all-electric F-150," said Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor Company. "This year's COVID-19 crisis made it clear why it is so important for companies like Ford to help keep our U.S. manufacturing base strong and help our country get back to work."

The all-electric Ford F-150 is expected to come to market in mid-2022. The redesigned 2021 F-150 will come to market later this year and include a new hybrid powertrain option dubbed the F-150 PowerBoost.

Recently, the company captured video of the F-1500 BEV testing in the wild.

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The 2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo is joining the company’s lineup

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

The decision to add a turbocharged engine variant to the Mazda3 was met with praise for those who like getting in a little more excitement behind the wheel. Now It has been announced that the Mazda3's crossover counterpart, the CX-30 is getting the same treatment.

The 2021 Mazda CX-30 will be available with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque when the tank is filled with 93 octane fuel. The performance drops to 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque when owners fill up with 87 octane. Engines with the turbo-four also get standard all-wheel drive.

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo The body styling is pretty much the same as the rest of the Mazda CX-30 lineup, but it does have unique wheels and other attributes.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

To accommodate the new engine option, Mazda has not had to change the outward appearance of the model In earnest but does add some highlights including 18-inch black aluminum alloy wheels, larger tailpipes, gloss black door mirrors and a "TURBO" badge on the liftgate.

As the most premium Mazda CX-30 model, it comes with a frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, black upper dash and chrome finishes. The features list includes a Bose 12-speaker audio system and an 8.8-inch infotainment screen..

The CX-30 2.5 Turbo, as the models with the engine will be known. Also comes equipped with Smart City Brake Support Reverse and rear cross-traffic braking technologies that can sense a vehicle coming into the lane of travel when reversing, warn the driver, and apply the brakes in order to possibly avoid a collision. Additional available safety technologies include a 360-degree view monitor, Active Drive Display, traffic sign recognition, and adaptation front lighting.

2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo The CX-30 debuted just last year.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

The 2021 Mazda CX-30 2.5 Turbo is scheduled to go on sale by the end of 2020. Specific packaging and pricing details will be announced in the coming months

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