In December 2007, one of our mobile customers was behind schedule with their soon-to-be launched mobile phone. Missing the holiday season release date was not an option as this would have consigned the phone to certain failure. Counting on the flexibility that our OTA update solution provided, they proceeded to release the phone on schedule but under spec. Within one month after the release, they issued an OTA firmware update to bring the phone up to spec and a major issue was averted.
Tesla recently took a similar approach. They started kitting out cars sold in October 2014 with the necessary sensors, cameras and ECUs to support autopilot, even though the feature itself was not yet ready. As these Model-S cars had integrated a full OTA update solution, the ability to decouple the hardware release from the software release was feasible and enabled the flexibility to release the feature at a later date (a year later, in fact) with version 7.0. Tesla even took this capability one step further to profit and charged $3,000 per OTA update from any Model-S owner that wanted to purchase the feature via an innovative Try & Buy program.
Tesla are modeled more on a Silicon Valley software company and less on a traditional automotive metal works factory, and this has had a positive effect on their approach to software creation, implementation, security and maintenance. Auto manufacturers in Germany, France, Korea and Japan must also understand the paradigm of the software lifecycle if they want to compete in a world where software driven automotive features are increasingly gaining as much importance with end-users as traditional mechanics such as the engine and chassis.
While the day that a traditional vehicle manufacturer introduces a car that is missing key features may never come the old paradigm of only introducing features that are mature and fully tested is quickly becoming one that cannot keep pace with market pressures for the introduction of new innovations. Indeed, the nature of software driven innovations is that they are never complete but are always a work in progress with periodic updates to the software according to a defined maintenance and feature roadmap. No feature is more in line with this model than ADAS where the level of integration, innovation and interoperability are so vast that without embracing the concept of the software roadmap, these features will never be released to the market.
Taking a leaf out of the mobile market and automotive early-adaptors’ playbook, integrating a secure, flexible, reliable and comprehensive OTA update solution will enable automotive OEMs to introduce new features to meet market demand while being well prepared to roll out feature and maintenance updates seamlessly and quickly to connected cars throughout their lifetime. Car owners will not only accept features that are not complete, but will also show appreciation for the OEM that periodically improves their car.