Big Auto look to tech companies to fix cars over the air
By Alexandria Sage
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - As cars increasingly resemble digital devices, a group of technology firms that can send wireless software updates to cars are in hot demand by carmakers scrambling to catch up to Tesla Motors (TSLA.O: Quote) in the arena of over-the-air updates, or OTAs.
Interest in the technology, through which certain car functions can be upgraded much the same way as an iPhone, comes as Tesla is set to deliver an OTA for hands-free cruise control this month, allowing its electric Model S sedans to drive themselves on freeways.
"Tesla has made great strides in raising the profile of OTA, making it appear somewhat sexy by showing how features could be added," said Strategy Analytics consultant Roger Lanctot. "They're almost poking the traditional carmakers in the eye by making it look so easy."
That has spurred the big automakers to get more serious about OTAs, although they are hampered by the challenge of making software compatible with internal combustion engines, dealers worried about losing service revenue and security concerns.
"There's a whole mindset change" as automakers embrace the need for the technology, said Honda spokesman Matt Sloustcher.
Oren Betzaleli, product strategy head for Israeli OTA firm Redbend, said four years ago it was hard to get in the door.
"Today, OTA is so important to car makers that we can get in right away to see the VPs of manufacturing," he said.
Betzaleli said between six and 10 auto companies are "engaged" with Redbend's technology for cars but declined to name them. There are about 70 different computers in every modern car, each with software that has to be managed, Betzaleli said. Continued...