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 new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is coming soon to a LEGO store near you.

Photo courtesy of LEGO

The Jeep Wrangler has fans the world over. For those fans whose extracurricular activities include LEGO building along with Jeeping, there's a new LEGO Technic model they'll want to take a look at. The LEGO Technic Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is the first LEGO model of a Jeep SUV.

Ask any Jeep Wrangler owner and they'll tell you that their vehicle is just a bigger version of this new LEGO set," said Mark Allen, Head of Jeep Design. "The design of the Jeep Wrangler allows them to take it apart, top off, doors off, reconfigure it, add new pieces from our Mopar team, and then put it back together again. This LEGO Technic Jeep Wrangler should bring a new level of joy to our Jeep enthusiasts and help inspire future designers to the brand."

LEGO Technic Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Photo courtesy of LEGO

The 665-piece model features all the classic Jeep hallmarks - a performance 4x4 system, rugged tires, fold-down rear seats, and a seven-slot grille. It features a button operated front steering system and axle-articulation suspension. It has a yellow-and-black color scheme.

"The Jeep Wrangler is an icon in the off-road world" says Lars Thygesen, Designer, LEGO Technic. "The Rubicon has a lot of the iconic details loved by 4x4 fans the world over, so it was important to me to pack as many of the authentic, powerful features of the real vehicle into the LEGO Technic replica. I hope LEGO fans and vehicle lovers enjoy all aspects including the suspension, winch and open air design that we developed alongside the talented Jeep design team."

The LEGO Technic Jeep Wrangler is designed for Jeep and LEGO fans alike, aged 9 and above. It will be available from January 1st 2021 from LEGO.com, LEGO stores and other retailers globally, priced at [49.99€/49.99$/£44.99].

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Audi is only making the car for U.S. customers.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The 2021 Audi R8 Panther special edition is one of the rarer gifts you can get for your garage this holiday season. With a limited run of 30 coupes in the works, the R8 Panther edition models are the first available units in the R8 rear-wheel-drive model line and available only for U.S. customers.

If the name sounds familiar to you, that's because it should. The R8 Panther edition joins the 2019 RS 5 Panther edition, which was also a limited run and featured the same paint color and interior upholstery.

2021 Audi R8 Panther The hallmarks of the model include its black paint job and red-edged wheels.Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The unique 2021 R8 Panther comes covered in an Audi-exclusive Panther Black crystal effect paint job with carbon exterior mirror housings. Its badging has been coated in black. The model rides on 20-inch five-double-spoke dynamic design wheels that have been milled cut, finished in matte black with red trim, and wrapped in summer performance tires.

Your neighbors will hear you leaving the cul-de-sac thanks to the car's sport exhaust system, which amplifies the sound of the V10 engine. LED headlights and LED taillights, with dynamic turn signals will help their eyes follow your path on the way out as they peer out their windows.

The R8 Panther is powered by a naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V1 engine that produces 532 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque, and sprints from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. It has a top track speed of 201 mph.

The chassis of the R8 Panther edition has been specifically adapted for rear-wheel drive, including using solid rear axles as opposed to hollow, a stiffer front anti-roll bar, and an increase in rear negative camber.

2021 Audi R8 Panther

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The model has a full black leather interior with Crimson red stitching. Its racing shells seats are covered in red Nappa leather and have power height and manual fore/art seat adjustment. The car's gear selector and parcel shelf are covered in Alcantara, and the headliner features a diamond-stitched Alcantara. Audi has given the model a brand-exclusive steering wheel with leather/Alcantara and 12 o'clock marker as well as exclusive R8 floor mats with Crimson red leather edging.

Audi virtual cockpit, Audi smartphone interface, Audi phone box with signal booster, navigation, a 13-speaker Bang & Olufson sound system, and illuminated door sill inlays are included.

A carbon exterior package adds carbon fiber to the engine compartment and carbon sigma sideblades while the carbon interior package adds carbon fiber high-gloss surrounds for both the virtual cockpit and the air vents, as well as the center console.

The 2021 R8 Panther edition will be available in select dealerships this month with an MSRP of $183,300. There is an additional $1,495 destination charge, $1,700 gas guzzler tax, sales taxes, title, options, and dealer charges.

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