When Toyota recalled over two million cars last week because of flaws with antilock braking systems and other problems, the fix was simple—a few software updates.
The implementation of that fix is far from simple. Every one of those cars has to be taken into a dealership to have the new software installed, an expensive process that can take months. Cars that haven’t been fixed could, in some cases, suddenly stall and crash.
There is an alternative—the same sort of remote software updates used for PCs and smart phones. Indeed, one automaker, Tesla Motors, already provides what it calls “over-the-air updates,” which allowed it to execute a recent software fix without requiring anybody to bring in their cars (see “Tesla Motors’ Over-the-Air Repairs Are the Way Forward”).
Increasingly, many cars have wireless connections, for infotainment and communications; and some automakers already use wireless connections to add software to their cars at the factory. Even so, it will take some time for major automakers to implement over-the-air updates, both because they’re worried about security and because they might face resistance from dealers.