Technique: Over the Air Updates : Through the skies

Hardly anyone wants to be out and about with an old smartphone in the turbulent everyday life, and the latest update finally has the functions that you have always wanted.

Technique: Over the Air Updates : Through the skies

Hardly anyone wants to be out and about with an old smartphone in the turbulent everyday life, and the latest update finally has the functions that you have always wanted. For this purpose, the device reports the next time it is switched on - a short confirmation - and the download can begin. Works on the go and everywhere - it couldn't be easier. The data turbo 5G makes it possible. What has long been the order of the day for mobile phones, tablets or home televisions is also becoming popular with more and more car manufacturers. Tesla wasn't the first, but it was probably the one to present its updates in a way that was effective for customers. Incidentally, the latest software in the vehicle is one thing, but anyone who is missing one or the other feature when looking for a dream used car will be happy to know that more and more manufacturers can subsequently activate individual additional equipment – ​​on demand – if they so wish.

It is not the case that every new car can also be updated "over the air". The best example is the new Ferrari Purosangue, with a minimum purchase price of more than 380,000 euros currently one of the most expensive production SUVs on the European market, not only does without an onboard navigation system, but also updates on the go. For new software, the Purosangue has to go to the local Ferrari workshop every time. But the noble Northern Italians are by no means an exception, because surprisingly many car manufacturers still goof with the contemporary updates that should have been a matter of course for a long time. The reason is usually an outdated IT structure. For example, if the on-board network or at least part of it was taken over from an older model, things can look bleak with the refreshed functions, for example.

According to the analysts from Jato Dynamics, just 34 percent of all new vehicles on the German market were designed for wireless data transfer at the end of last year. According to this, two thirds of all new vehicles have to go to the workshop for new software and the installation of fresh vehicle functions. After all, half of all new SUVs are prepared for over-the-air updates. The proportion is otherwise only similar in models from the middle class. In the vehicle segments below it looks much worse. It is not surprising that the individual car manufacturers sometimes differ significantly when it comes to on-board electrical system technology. BMW has been a pioneer in vehicle networking since the mid-2000s. The people of Munich brought the data transfer via mobile phone connection into the car much earlier than everyone else. There are now OTA updates for 55 different model versions. The three-series mid-range models (eight models) and the smaller two-series (four models) are among the top ten. Main competitor Mercedes had 35 model versions with wireless updates in its portfolio at the end of last year; including the A and B class, each with five variants. International brands such as Renault (24 models) and Jaguar (21 models) are also particularly modern. From the Jaguar F-Pace, for example, there are currently nine model variants with over-the-air updates - the absolute leader. While Ford offers eight model versions of the Focus compact car with OTA, it didn't even make the top ten for manufacturers.

Not surprisingly, the updates have become significantly more important with a switch to electric drives. But even of the comparatively newly developed electric cars, only 55 percent can currently be reached via data transfer on the go. Quite different with the mostly Asian hybrid models, which were mostly based on pure combustion models. Four out of five models with hybrid drive have to be updated in the workshop. Even with the pure combustion models, the OTA share is larger at more than 30 percent. It looks better for plug-in hybrids or corresponding vehicles with mild hybrid drive, because here the over-the-air update share is at least 50 percent. For a good 1.5 percent of mild hybrid cars, the technology is offered as an option, for all other vehicles it is standard - or not at all.

In the meantime, the car manufacturers are trying to make these new updates desirable for the customer, because this is how money can be made - not only with subsequently activated special equipment such as seat heating, distance cruise control or other driver assistance systems. Volkswagen has been rolling out the software service for almost three years, including with its new ID models and the Golf 8. The subsequently activated voice control costs 269 euros, for example, because in contrast to other manufacturers, the Lower Saxony car manufacturer favors one-off payments instead of subscription models.

At BMW you can unlock various extras via the Connected Drive Store. As with the others, mostly for a limited period of time or permanently. The useful seat heating costs 17 euros per month, for one year it is 170 euros and for three years 270 euros. If you book unlimited, you pay 385 euros. In order to get the latest maps for the navigation system, you have to transfer 89 euros to Munich every year. The steering wheel heating costs at least ten euros a month, if you want to park the car, you have to pay 18 euros and if you want to be entertained with acoustic effects while driving, you pay 150 euros. It is interesting that BMW charges 300 euros for Apple Carplay preparation.

The German premium manufacturers in particular have discovered subsequent activation for themselves. If you buy a Porsche Taycan that costs at least 93,000 euros, you should also have around 1,500 euros for the LED matrix light in your pocket. If you want to reorder it, you pay 36 euros for the monthly subscription in the Connect Store. Porsche charges eleven euros per month or a one-time fee of 419 euros for its “Intelligent Range Manager” route optimizer. Even one of the strengths of the models from Zuffenhausen, the adaptive power steering Plus, which adapts to the speed, has a one-time cost of 329 euros in the Taycan Connect Store. The situation is very similar at Audi. However, the Ingolstadt-based company is focusing on even more individuality and flexibility in its "Functions on Demand" service. The selection varies depending on the model and the running times are different than those of the Zuffenhauseners. In addition to a test month for one euro, you can use the Audi Q4 e-tron for six months (from 17 euros), one year (32 euros), three years (from 86 euros) or unlimited. By the way, the subsequently booked equipment is vehicle-related and is simply taken over by the second owner in the event of a sale.

Opel is currently approaching the post-payment business much closer to the people. In cars like the Corsa e, the e-Connect app, which can be used to call up or control various functions wirelessly, comes as standard. This includes the status of the battery or the app reports as soon as the next maintenance is due. As soon as you order a navigation system for at least 600 euros, the Rüsselsheim-based carmaker asks its customers to pay for the live data, such as traffic density, after 36 months. The situation is similar for Citroën and Peugeot. In the next few years, however, the individual Stellantis brands also want to install the subsequently bookable payment services for new models.