Why Haven’t Over-The-Air Updates Taken Over The Auto Industry?

Author’s note: This report is based on several interviews with experts in the field. Due to the sensitivity of the issue, and its political aspects, all experts have requested anonymity.

There has been a lot of speculation as to why other OEMs aren’t doing Over The Air Updates [OTA] the way Tesla does. Are they daft? Or are they greedy for the update money made in the shop? After diving deep into the topic, I have come up with a surprising reason: OTA, the way Tesla appears to be doing it, is illegal in many, if not most parts of the world. 

Last year, Tesla’s Model 3 famously fell out of the good graces of Consumer Reports for having lousy brakes. “The Tesla’s stopping distance of 152 feet from 60 mph was far worse than any contemporary car we’ve tested and about 7 feet longer than the stopping distance of a Ford F-150 full-sized pickup,” wrote the reputable institution. Days later, Tesla CEO Elon Musk vowed that the problem would be fixed immediately over-the-air. “Firmware fix for upgraded brake performance on standard Model 3 started rolling out yesterday,” Musk promptly tweeted.

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