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Despite offering fast and remote data exchange, OTA (Over-the-Air) technology is rarely used by intelligent vehicle manufacturers for updating their on-board systems. But, in spite of the uncertainly surrounding the technology's security, this situation might change if the advantages offered by this method were greater for car owners and brands.




Today, very few car manufacturers use OTA technology (Over-the-Air, i.e. remote) to update the systems used in their connected vehicles and make corrections when required. This is mainly due to the dealership-owners' reticence and the risk of lapses in security during data transfer. However, in the future, this "wireless" method will likely be adopted by more automobile groups because it has many advantages both for intelligent car owners and for brands.


Up to 45 billion dollars saved


The manufacturers' interest is primarily financial. Marketing consultants ABI Research estimate that, between now and 2022, 203 million vehicles worldwide are likely to receive their software updates by OTA. Using this protocol rather than a different technique could save them up to 45 billion dollars between now and 2022, according to a report by IHS Automotive.

In 2014, Tesla and General Motors both had to deal with a software fault that led to an increased fire risk. GM car owners had to take their car to a dealership so that a mechanic could make the necessary adjustment, which ended up costing the manufacturer millions. Meanwhile Tesla, who use OTA, were able to update 30,000 vehicles in the 24 hours following the recall.


More and more updates


This phenomenon will become even more apparent in the future, since the new models of connected cars will rely more on software and on-board technologies. In order to stay effective and safe, these technologies will require regular updates, says Brendan O’Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, in his column published in Wards Auto.

But this financial godsend is not welcomed by dealerships, who often deal with the cars' maintenance. Regardless of whether it is the manufacturer or car owner who pays for an update to be carried out at a dealership, dealers will no longer be able to bill for this job if the updates are carried out automatically by OTA. However, the main argument against this remote method lies elsewhere.


The shadow of ill-intentioned hacking


Over-the-Air data exchanges do pose the problem of security, with an increased risk of information being hacked, losing control of the system or sabotage by a hacker. Though this issue concerns all connected devices, vehicles present much more of a danger than other devices if the hackers decide to turn nasty.

Two years ago, hackers managed to remotely enter into a Jeep's system and shut it down in the middle of the motorway. Luckily, the hackers were well-intentioned and also very talented, as the manipulation was highly complex. But this invasion is clearly possible, and OTA increases the chances of security breaches which could be exploited by ill-intentioned people.

After weighing up the positives and negatives of fully-OTA updates, more and more car manufacturers seem to have decided to adopt this method. While remaining cautious and by using platforms that offer higher guarantees with regard to security, car brands are starting to see the advantages of remote manipulations. As a bonus, thanks to this system they are better able to fulfil their customers' expectations, who demand a fast and unrestrictive service.


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