German giant Volkswagen has followed the lead of electric car firms such as Tesla by launching live software updates for its cars. Effective immediately, the new technology means that new features can be added to its cars without the need for owners to visit a VW dealership.
Updates are exclusive to its ID. electric cars
Volkswagen is heavily promoting its electric cars and is hoping to boost the appeal of the ID.3 electric hatchback and ID.4 electric SUV with these over-the-air (OTA) updates. All ID. models come with a built-in SIM card that allows the vehicle to send and receive data, even when parked, which is how VW is able to provide this service.
The system has already been tested by selected customers who had registered with VW's ID. First Movers Club, but VW has now launched it across all of its models via its Software 2.3 update. It marks the first time that a major mainstream car manufacturer has offered OTA updates, and means that all of the firm's ID. models will be networked together.
The move comes as part of VW's Accelerate strategy, which will see the firm become more focused on software than ever before. Speaking about the updates to the ID. range, Thomas Ulbrich, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development, said: "The new updates are a central functionality of the digital, connected car. They will quickly become normal for our customers, in the same way as they have for their smartphones. Software development is iterative and fast. We work in short cycles, like a tech company, and provide updates to our customers at correspondingly short intervals."
Volkswagen expects to offer owners software updates every 12 weeks or so. These updates will be free of charge, although the company is looking into business models that will allow it to sell additional products as part of the system. For example, an ID. owner could upgrade their car's infotainment with live traffic updates or music streaming, while other options could be unlocked as and when they're wanted. It's also possible that VW will be able to launch power upgrades and improved driving range to customers, although VW has yet to reveal its plans in terms of what is provided for free and what is behind a 'paywall'..
New features with Software 2.3
The introduction of OTA updates brings with it immediate benefits for ID. drivers. The software that controls the car's multifunction camera has been enhanced, so that it can now recognise motorcycles and other road users, while the control for the automatic dipped beam (available as an option across the ID. range) delivers more precise object detection. The ID. Light strip at the bottom of the windscreen now gives the driver information on how to drive more efficiently, as well as showing how energy is being used while using Adaptive Cruise Control. The infotainment graphics have also been enhanced, with a clearer display and, according to VW, a more user-friendly interface. The latter has been reconfigured with input from early ID. customers.