Tesla software updates reveal potential roadblock to EV expansion

Whenever car manufacturers discover that a vehicle has a defect or does not comply with US law, they must notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and mail a notice to each customer who owns or leases the affected vehicle. Automakers must also recall those cars, trucks or SUVs, which means they must fix the defect across the entire fleet.

People with recalled vehicles usually have to schedule a visit to an authorized dealer, where a mechanic repairs the car.

But vehicles are increasingly high-tech gadgets. Although most recalls still require the replacement or repair of auto parts, such as airbags or brakes, a growing number of issues are resolved without the help of a mechanic.

All they require is an “over the air update”. That’s the technical term for what happens when you update any software program used by a device, whether it’s a smartphone or a sedan.

Over-the-air updates are especially common for vehicles that run entirely or partially on electricity rather than gasoline or other fuel. These digital withdrawals require little to no effort. For example, Tesla regularly repairs its cars by updating its software. Your drivers often don’t have to do anything. In other cases, a Tesla owner simply has to tap a few buttons on the car’s touchscreen.

By law, it doesn’t matter if security-related fixes require a software update or a trip to the dealer. Either way, it is mandatory to notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and all affected drivers.

Why are wireless updates important?

A Tesla Model Y side impact test car.images alliance / images alliance / Getty Images

Electric vehicle sales nearly doubled from about 300,000 in 2020 to more than 600,000 in 2021. Electric vehicle sales rose another 76% in the first quarter of 2022, even as sales of all new vehicles fell by 15.7%.

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Electric vehicle sales in the US could be on the verge of much higher growth, making over-the-air upgrades increasingly common. But drivers and investors are raising a number of safety concerns that could slow the expansion of the electric vehicle market.

Serious problems include electric vehicles that won’t start, lose power, and catch fire due to battery defects.

Musk objects to the word ‘remember’

Tesla has gone out of its way to rely primarily on over-the-air updates to fix problems with its electric vehicles than its competitors. Its CEO, Elon Musk, has for years publicly questioned the wisdom of calling over-the-air updates “retired.”

In some cases, Tesla has made over-the-air updates to resolve security flaws without notifying the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or Tesla owners that a recall was in progress.

Because that is against the law, the agency ordered Tesla to provide those details.

Tesla has used over-the-air updates to resolve, for example, issues with windshield wipers and seat belt chimes. It has also used over-the-air updates to fix problems with its partially automated driving systems. Those features are the subject of a government investigation due to a series of crashes with parked emergency vehicles in which first responders used warning signals, such as flashing lights or flares.

This article was originally published on The conversation by Vivek Ashvansh at Indiana University. Read the original article here.

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