unfinished cars already on the street?

The time when mechanical carburettors adjusted their synchronization by ear dates back to prehistoric times. One way to maintain a car is now to press a button to initiate an update called “over the air” (OTA), which is done remotely and via a computer.. Admittedly, OTA actions will never replace certain physical interventions in the car: tires and brake pads have never been telepathically changed to date! But with cars increasingly resembling these ‘chip cars’, many corrective actions are now possible via the car’s software. Tesla is the brand that uses it the most: its cars can thus perform “pre-repair diagnostics”. When Tesla enters a brand workshop, so the operator already knows what is happening there. Better yet, he’ll probably have ordered parts to repair the car.

At least in theory, spare parts availability remains a black spot for the American label mass-produced in China. However, according to the NHTSA (roughly equivalent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States), seven of the 19 recalls affecting Tesla between January 1, 2020 and February 2022 could be implemented remotely. OTA. All other brands mentioned by the American organization swing between 0 and 1 movement of this type maximum.

Remote diagnosis

BMW is also lurking. In 2019, the Bavarian started talking to its cars remotely: “Everything can be tampered with: mapping, driving aids. We can add small features, fix problems, in short, there are no limits,” says Olivier Dufieux, engineer at BMW France’s customer service department. At least 50,000 individual updates have been carried out since the OTA service was offered in France. All models manufactured by BMW since 2016 can receive remote updates. This will also be the case for Minis from 2023. The German now plans to expand the range of capabilities with vehicles that can send a fault diagnosis to the manufacturer, which will allow the vehicle’s maintenance manager to be aware of a customer’s concern in real time. car. BMW France will also allow distributors and teams in its network to remotely control customers’ cars: not to drive them, of course, but to analyze the condition of an element or system: “This can allow the mechanic to tell the customer whether to proceed,” Olivier Dufieux continues. Finally, from September, BMW vehicles can also offer an appointment with the nearest brand repairer, available time slots and support prices directly from their infotainment system.

Updates and other remote maintenance events should increase significantly in the coming months. Mercedes started just a year ago , on the occasion of the launch of its EQS electric sedan. Volvo assured before the summer that 190,000 customers of the latest models in 34 countries can already benefit from such updates to optimize energy management (100% electric models) or the infotainment system. At Volkswagen, as of 2020, GPS and traffic information systems are updated in real-time OTA. With the recent introduction of ID electric models, the brand should take advantage of new opportunities.

Abuse of technology

On the other side of the Rhine, the enthusiasm for OTAs is not necessarily shared by Adac, the country’s powerful car club: “The danger with OTA updates is that automakers may be tempted to release a car before it’s fully developed and secretly fix possible software bugs over time. In 2018, 16% of recalls were related to faulty software, and that number could rise,” the auto club said, adding that the free OTA moves “within the first ten or fifteen years” of a vehicle’s launch. claims to be.

It seems that Adac has already identified the problem. Mistakes related to dangerous updates are not uncommon in Tesla: full headlights that turn on when you hear them, warnings for obstruction cameras when they are not, windshield wipers that start working in direct sunlight…The update proposed on September 20 seems to have not satisfied all users… Other brands are also experiencing discomfort. Jaguar in particular would not be left behind. Neither is Volvo. The driver of the XC60 had to wait two hours after mistakenly confirming an on-screen update request. This Renault dealer had to delay the delivery of the Captur E-tech, which was “OTA contender” on the morning of the meeting.

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