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.

Trending News

 
 

Domino's and Nuro announced their partnership in 2019 — and now the robots are hitting the roads.

Photo courtesy of Nuro

After announcing their partnership to work on pizza deliveries via self-driving robots in 2019, Dominos and Nuro have officially rolled out their technology to one part of town.

Beginning this week, if you place a prepaid order from Domino's in Woodland Heights (3209 Houston Ave.), you might have the option to have one of Nuro's R2 robot come to your door. This vehicle is the first do deliver completely autonomously without occupants with a regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to a news release.

"We're excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino's customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston," says Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president and chief innovation officer, in the release. "There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations."

Orders placed at select dates and times will have the option to be delivered autonomously. Photo courtesy of Nuro

Nuro Domino's delivery vehicle

The Nuro deliveries will be available on select days and times, and users will be able to opt for the autonomous deliveries when they make their prepaid orders online. They will then receive a code via text message to use on the robot to open the hatch to retrieve their order.

"Nuro's mission is to better everyday life through robotics. Now, for the first time, we're launching real world, autonomous deliveries with R2 and Domino's," says Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president, in the release. "We're excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino's customers in Houston. We can't wait to see what they think."

California-based Nuro has launched a few delivery pilots in Houston over the past few years, including the first Nuro pilot program with Kroger in March 2019, grocery delivery from Walmart that was revealed in December 2019, and pharmacy delivery that launched last summer.

From being located in a state open to rolling out new AV regulations to Houston's diversity — both in its inhabitants to its roadways, the Bayou City stood out to Nuro, says Sola Lawal, product operations manager at Nuro.

"As a company, we tried to find a city that would allow us to test a number of different things to figure out what really works and who it works for," Lawal says on an episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "It's hard to find cities that are better than Houston at enabling that level of testing."

You can find out which self-driving vehicles are being tested in your neck of the woods by clicking here.


This article first appeared on AutomotiveMap's sister site InnovationMap.

Trending News

 
 

The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 is on sale now.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG
The all-electric range of the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 has been confirmed. The model is the first modern electric Volkswagen to be sold in the U.S. and a model that the German automaker is resting a lot of hopes on for the future of sales in the country.

The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro with all-wheel drive will achieve an EPA-estimated 260 miles of all-electric range on a full charge. The ID.4 Pro S and 1st Edition, which have more features and equipment and therefore weigh more, achieve an estimated 250 miles of range.

The EPA-estimated fuel economy for ID.4 Pro RWD is 107 MPGe in the city; 91 MPGe on the highway, and 99 MPGe combined. The ID.4 Pro S and 1st Edition does slightly worse achieving 104 MPGe in the city, 89 MPGe on the highway, and 97 MPGe combined.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4: Exterior The "1st" badging denotes the vehicle as a first edition model. Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

These new numbers come as part of a second round of EPA testing. Original testing found that the model did not quite hit its target.

How does that compare to other EVs? The Nissan Leaf Plus offers 226 miles of all-electric power. The Hyundai Kona Electric delivers 258 miles. Volvo's XC40 Recharge has just 208 miles of all-electric range but the Tesla Model Y can go up to 326 miles on one full charge.

First out of the Volkswagen gate will be ID.4 models with an 82-kilowatt-hour battery and rear-mounted AC permanent-magnet synchronous motor. That system delivers 201 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque.

At a public DC fast-charging station with 125 kW charging, the ID.4 can go from five to 80 percent charged in about 38 minutes. With purchase, ID.4 owners receive three years of unlimited charging at Electrify America DC Fast Chargers at no additional cost.

The 2021 ID.4 is on sale now, with pricing for the rear-wheel-drive ID.4 Pro starting at $39,995 MSRP, before a potential Federal tax credit of up to $7,500. The Pro S carries an MSRP of $44,495. The limited-run ID.4 1st Edition, which sold out the day the vehicle was launched, carried an MSRP of $43,995.

Trending News