With companies like Apple and Tesla showing how its done, BMW and MINI are moving cautiously to over the air updates (OTA) in future vehicles. How would OTAs work in the auto industry? Instead of buying a car and having its software (and features) frozen in time forever, the concept is that automakers can improve the driving experience and add technology features throughout the life of the car. Much like iOS or Android updates, this change would bring increased value throughout ownership.

Over the air updates
Maps will be just the start and BMW begins to rollout OTAs.

BMW is introducing OTAs with the new X5 and 8 Series later this year. We expect the new X7 and 3 Series to follow suit when they launch late this year.

MINI (now with 4G connectivity) will have that ability but hasn’t make any official statements about when they will launch a similar program. However we expect an OTA strategy to be part of the electric MINI which is expect to launch late next year.

We can imagine new features from OTAs showing up in BMW’s new all digital gauge cluster.

Automotive News Europe sat down recently with BMW Group head of digital services Dieter May to talk about the rollout and the strategy behind the updates. Here are a couple of excerpts:

We are still working on our strategy. We are deciding which pieces of software can be updated over the air and how – at home using your local LAN or using the SIM embedded in the car. The advantage is clear: Your vehicle is constantly updated without having to take it to the dealership. There are also some clear risks, not only cybersecurity but how to buffer memory in the car to store the update before you overwrite the existing software. For functions such as engine management software, we are talking about several gigabytes of data. An update this large could have a significant effect on your mobile phone data plan.

While BMW will focus on navigation updates for it’s first OTAs, we expect full system updates (with new features etc) to be a part of the OTA strategy in the years ahead.