Over-The-Air Updates Can Make It Easier to Get Recall Repairs

Jane Lu
Updated on Apr 27, 2022 · 3 min read
Car recalls
are common, and they can be worrying and inconvenient for impacted car owners. However, more automakers are making it easier to get recall repairs by using new technology to update defective software over the air (OTA).
General Motors
(GM) are some of the brands that are taking a lead on this, but you can expect to see OTA updates become more widespread.
Many car repairs rely on software updates instead of hardware fixes

Software updates for vehicles are becoming more common

Tesla is a trailblazer when it comes to experimenting with various forms of
innovative car technology
. The automaker was one of the earliest brands to introduce a way to update digital control systems through software downloads, according to
NBC News
. All its cars currently come with the feature and other EV startups, such as Lucid and Rivian, are following suit.
Software updates are common for smartphones. Sam Abuelsamid, the principal auto analyst for Guidehouse Insights, said that it could become almost universal in the auto industry. Both automakers and consumers benefit from the technology. This is also good news for regulators and safety advocates.
Tesla frequently uses OTA updates to tweak onboard technology. The automaker plans to remotely download new software to fix its latest problem: a glitch in the
driver assistance system
that causes unintended acceleration. The glitch has caused Tesla to recall nearly 300,000 Model Y and Model 3 vehicles sold in China.
GM has also implemented OTA functionality to fix car technology issues. The automaker is recalling 2021 SUVs and sedans sold by its Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac brands in the U.S., because their warning lights may not be triggered by airbag failures. However, GM says that drivers may need to have their updates performed at a certified dealership.

A growing number of recalls involve car software issues

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data shows that a growing number of car recalls involve glitches in the software controlling onboard computer systems. Such issues are easy to fix remotely using OTA updates that Tesla and GM have been implementing.
NBC News reported that about 63 million vehicles had open safety recalls but were still on the road in 2019. Automakers recalled close to 31 million vehicles in the U.S. for safety-related issues just last year. That was more than twice the number of vehicles recalled in 2010, according to the NHTSA.

OTA repairs will likely become more mainstream

The simplicity and convenience that come with OTA repairs can reduce the number of drivers who ignore recall notices. Since drivers don’t have to bring their vehicles back to the dealership, this can also help them save money.
Earlier this year,
said that 1.3 million vehicle owners may not have to visit dealerships for software-related fixes if they subscribed to the brand's Mercedes Me service.
You’ll still have to bring in your car for mechanical system repairs, but a good portion of recalls could be fixed remotely. Additionally, car manufacturers will be able to send new features to vehicles to improve functionality, as smartphone companies do for apps. With these benefits, you can expect more manufacturers to include OTA capabilities for their vehicles.
Even if you haven’t had issues with your car, it’s important to have reliable car insurance to protect you from unexpected accidents.
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