DETROIT -- General Motors plans to launch a new electrical vehicle architecture and infotainment system capable of over-the-air updates "before 2020," CEO Mary Barra said.
The company has remotely updated its in-vehicle OnStar services, but it has not used over-the-air, or OTA, updates for infotainment and mechanical software systems like some competitors -- most notably, Tesla Inc.
"We are in the process of deploying a new electrical architecture, which is a pretty comprehensive undertaking, and that's well under way ... as well as a whole new generation of infotainment systems," Barra said during an analyst conference call Tuesday to discuss its second-quarter earnings of $1.66 billion. "You'll see us have that capability as we move forward."
GM spokesman Vijay Iyer confirmed the company is “looking at additional opportunities” that would allow it to “upgrade vehicles post-purchase to create more value to our existing customers.”
The Chevrolet Bolt has a connected infotainment system capable of OTA updates, however Iyer said “at this point” GM has not activated that capability beyond OnStar.
Iyer, in a separate email to Automotive News, said the plans outlined by Barra are separate from a partnership with Globetouch Inc. The connectivity service provider on Monday said it is working with GM and Verizon Telematics to integrate its "open platform GControl" with OnStar.
After Tesla's launch of OTA updates roughly five years ago on the Model S, traditional automakers are slowly embracing the technology.
Ford, most recently, announced plans to add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to its Sync 3-equipped 2016 vehicles via a wireless software update.
OTA updates are seen as a key part of connected and autonomous vehicles, as they allow companies to remotely update systems and provide real-time updates when needed. OTA updates are expected to save automakers billions of dollars and could fundamentally alter the relationship among drivers, automakers and dealerships.
In 2015, IHS estimated 160 million vehicles globally will have the capability to upgrade their telematics systems over the air by 2022, up from 14.5 million in 2015.
In addition to being able to instantly download new infotainment system and map features, the frequency of trips to the dealership for repairs could be cut down for the average driver. For instance, a driver who would have had to go to the local dealership for a software-related repair might soon be able to have the fix wirelessly installed on the vehicle without leaving home.
Meanwhile, GM earlier this month hired A. Charles Thomas to the newly created position of chief data officer. The appointment was effective July 18, according to a GM spokesman.
Barra mentioned the new position during the earnings call to underscore GM’s growing concentration on using data analytics to create value for the automaker and its customers.
GM, Barra said, already is “seeing monetization through OnStar” and is in the initial steps of “leveraging the data” for customer experience and business-to-business opportunities, which she declined to elaborate upon.
“The opportunity is there,” she said. Later adding, “we’ve got to seize it.”
Thomas will be responsible for strengthening data science and analytics, including strategic management of customer, corporate and business data. He will report to Alan Batey, president of GM North America.
Thomas most recently served as executive vice president, chief data officer, head of enterprise data and analytics at Wells Fargo.
According to his LinkedIn profile, he’s also held senior-level data and analytics roles with Hewlett-Packard, data mining and research company Harte-Hanks Inc. and USAA.