Car Makers Speed Up Software Updates

Automatic software updates are pretty common these days. Your operating system downloads patches and drivers and prompts you to install them. Most browsers download and install updates automatically, too.

Now even your car can get in on the action. Mercedes has launched its mbrace2 system, which includes a phone app for locking and unlocking your car, as well as a sneaky new feature that automatically updates its software without any action required by driver or mechanic.

Not so much as a button to push by you or the guy at the shop? In the auto industry, that’s a big deal.

Today, the average car has components running millions of lines of code. Just like any software, it needs patches and updates. Over the past year, software glitches have led to several recalls, which are expensive and time-consuming for both the car’s owner and its manufacturer.

Consider the following recalls. All were about software, and are just a small sampling from the past year:

  • Nissan Quest had a bug that disrupted the flow of fuel to the engine, triggering a potential stall.
  • Fisker Karma’s bugs affected the navigation system and the battery.
  • Honda crushed a bug that affected the transmission in several models.
  • Jaguar had a bug that prevented some drivers from disabling cruise control.

Let’s hope that one day, recalls turn into simple updates.

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