Over-the-Air (OTA) Updates: What You Need to Know

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New cars come loaded with fancy new technology that needs constant updates

These days, cars are packed with as much technology as your average computer. While this can make driving more convenient and navigation certainly much easier, it also means that there is a lot more software to be updated. To manage this process, most automakers are beginning to use over-the-air (OTA) updates to patch and improve their software remotely. Let’s break down how OTA updates work, what they can/can’t do, and the advantages/disadvantages of this new technology.

Over-the-Air (OTA) Updates: What You Need to Know

Manufacturers have been including high-end technology in vehicles for over a decade, but up until now, the main way to update this technology was by visiting the dealership or a certified mechanic who could integrate patches and other updates. Now, however, the main way to upgrade the digital information in your vehicle is with over-the-air (OTA) updates.

How Over-the-Air (OTA) Updates Work

The way these updates work is pretty self-explanatory. Just like you can connect to the internet on your phone remotely, you can also upgrade the digital information in your vehicle with a remote connection. As long as your vehicle can maintain a signal from the manufacturer, the software can be updated without you leaving your house or taking your car to the dealership.

Even better, these updates are usually done automatically. This means that the technology in your vehicle is continually upgraded and updated to have the latest information. This can be incredibly helpful for GPS technology, as well as any apps held in your vehicle’s infotainment system.

Different Types of Software

There are two types of technology that are updated with OTA updates. The first is the infotainment center of your vehicle, which features control interfaces for sound, streaming services, various apps, and other features. The technology in the infotainment system is one of the premier features of modern vehicles, with many drivers preferring vehicles that support fully integrated systems with hotspots and streaming services.

The second type of technology the OTA update will address is the operative safety of the vehicle. In particular, driver-assist features are all programmed into your vehicle and will require regular updates to keep the technology sensitive and attentive. These updates may also affect the vehicle’s powertrain and other systems.

What Are the Benefits?

Both vehicles and drivers can certainly benefit from remote updates. For one thing, a remote over-the-air update can save drivers plenty of time and money by skipping the dealership.

Vehicles can also benefit because information technology is continually up to date, which means that vehicles are always operating with the latest patches to promote better safety on the road. Drivers benefit by ensuring that their vehicles maintain compliance and safety standards that have been newly introduced with autonomous driving. For electric vehicles, you may even see improvements in charging and/or efficiency.

What’s the Downside?

Of course, with everything in the world, there is give and take. While there are several benefits that come with over-the-air updates, there are also downsides to consider. For example, because updates can be done remotely, it’s easy for drivers to get too comfortable skipping regular maintenance. A software update can’t check your brake pads, tire tread, and other important components. Routine maintenance needs to remain routine.

Additionally, there is also a question of safety when it comes to these technology upgrades in vehicles. OTA updates are done through a wireless connection, so there’s always the possibility of malware and other hacking exposure, such as leaking of personal information. The only way you can combat this downside is by using a secured wireless connection to reduce these risks. That may be easier said than done. Your vehicle is already storing a lot of sensitive information and you don’t have as much control over it as you might think.

More Technology Means More Things to Consider

Whether we like it or not, vehicles are becoming more complex. All this new technology is meant to improve the driving experience, make us safer, and/or improve performance. But not all technology is created equal and it’s up to you to decide what works best for you and your family. If you take the time to research the best infotainment systems and test out all the important features on a test drive, you’re sure to drive away a lot happier than if you just went in blind. An educated customer is a happy customer.

The technology in modern vehicles doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, but just like any other type of technology, all your digital information needs to be regularly updated. Right now, OTA updates are the trendiest and most time-efficient way to keep your car up to date. Whether you’re looking for a new ride with the most cutting-edge tech or you want an older ride without all the new bells and whistles, you can find what you’re looking for right here.

Brandon Cantrell

Brandon Cantrell

At over a dozen vehicles, Brandon has lost count of the cars, trucks, and motorcycles that have graced his driveway. So, when he got into digital marketing, the automotive industry was a natural fit. Brandon now has almost a half-decade of experience writing and editing various forms of automotive content.