LAS VEGAS -- Over-the-air updates aren't just for Tesla anymore.
Once deemed an unacceptable risk and a daunting technical challenge, remote software fixes have quickly become a top priority for the world's largest car companies.
Interest spiked after Tesla Motors launched the Model S sedan with onboard Wi-Fi and an electronic architecture allowing every line of code to be changed over time -- right down to those dictating the behavior of the brakes, steering and suspension.
But other manufacturers lack such easy remote access to their vehicles in service. So they're choosing from several ways to get software updates into cars, including options that loop in the owner's smartphone.
The lack of an industrywide standard adds complexity for automakers, but for now it's creating a competitive battleground, with automakers vying to do the best job of satisfying regulators on security and delighting customers with new experiences.
"Two years ago, 'over-the-air update' was like a bad word," Ned Curic, chief technology officer at Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., said in November at the Connected Car Expo in Los Angeles. Now, he said, the response from executives is: "Yes, we've got to do that."
No matter how the updates get done, the upside is huge. IHS Automotive projects that automakers will save $35 billion from over-the-air updates in 2022, up from $2.7 billion in 2015. Those savings would come from 10.9 million map updates, plus 42.5 million telematics updates, 34.4 million infotainment updates and 13.2 million updates to safety-critical control units.