Few capabilities for over-the-air software updates may have a side benefit that could help dealerships retain service business.
Remote software updates help build service business, suppliers say
In addition to performing updates remotely, new systems about to reach the market can gather real-world data from components that can't be fixed remotely, such as brakes.
Based on such data, automakers could prompt owners with customized messages directing them where to take their vehicles for service, according to automotive suppliers.
"That is a big part of it," says John Nunneley, senior vice president of engineering for Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas.
"The OEM can inform the customer: 'This is a problem you have. This is the component you need. This is where you can get it,' " Nunneley told Fixed Ops Journal.
The same data center that performs over-the-air software updates can collect drive-cycle data from vehicles, such as how hard the brakes are used, Nunneley says. The data also could predict when a component might fail, he says.
"If you're a dealer, the next thing the car will be able to do is to tell the driver: 'OK, I'm detecting a knock sensor problem. You need to go to a service center. Here's a list of centers within a five-mile radius, with pricing. Would you like me to schedule an appointment?' "
Owners are likely to give a lot of weight to service messages from the car or truck itself, and are tailored to that vehicle and not just because a certain mileage has been reached, says Ben Hoffman, president of Movimento, a subsidiary of Delphi Automotive that specializes in over-the-air software updates.
"If the car says it needs this — a sensor is bad, or an oil change, or brake wear — by going to a dealership with that knowledge that the vehicle has told you … it's a much more confident and informed customer, instead of going in there blind," Hoffman says.
He adds: "It develops a relationship among the OEM, the customer and the dealer when the customer comes in with more understanding of what they're in for."
Over-the-air updates are old hat in infotainment. General Motors' OnStar system has provided software updates since 2009, says GM spokesman Stefan Cross.
In December, Cross says, GM added an online commerce feature called Marketplace to millions of 2017 and 2018 vehicles via an over-the-air update.
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