Recently, Volkswagen AG (VW) made the news not for its cars but for all the wrong reasons. A “discrepancy in installed software” in its diesel cars led to incorrect emission readings, violating several environmental laws across the United States and impacting over 11 million cars worldwide. How severe was the damage due to “dieselgate”? Within days VW announced its plans to keep aside over EUR 6.5 billion to cover costs and service-related expenses towards the software glitch in its diesel automobiles. The CEO resigned amid the scandal. The damage was not just limited to the environment alone – the brand itself is suffering from customer/prospective customer mistrust and potential abandonment. Even the stock market reacted sharply to the issue and the VW stock nosedived. While the software glitch could be patched up rather easily by bringing the car to a service center, it could be months before all the vehicles on the road can be updated to “fix” the issue. This clearly points to a severe lack of Over-The-Air update strategy.
While this software discrepancy is neither the first nor the last of issues related to software glitches, there is a pattern on how the traditional automobile industry responds to situations like these
All of the below recalls in 2015 were due to software glitches:
- Ford recalled over 432,000 cars due to software issues
- Fiat recalled 7800 SUVs over software glitches
- Fiat-Chrysler recalled over 1 million vehicles to prevent them from being hacked
- Toyota recalled over 63,000 hybrids due to software problems
- Group of “ethical hackers” were able to remotely control and “kill” a Jeep Cherokee
What is the pattern that we observe?
- Manufacturer discovers an issue in the vehicle attributable to a software glitch
- Company issues a recall and notifies customers
- Customers bring vehicles to service centers for a “software update” or fix
- Process takes months to complete and millions of dollars
- Company’s brand and/or reputation is damaged
Is there a way to optimize this whole chaos, and in turn prevent customers from discomfort, and save the automobile manufacturers millions of dollars?
If we look around, the problem has already been solved. In February 2014, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published two recall announcements – for the same issue affecting automobiles manufacturers. The vehicles were at risk of catching fire, and there was a safety issue due to a software problem. While GM had to spend millions on 370,000 vehicles recalled over the next few months to update the software at its designated dealerships, Tesla conducted Over-The-Air-Updates of the software system - an overnight fix.
So, what did Tesla do right here?
- Its cars are Internet enabled not just for the “infotainment” systems
- It could troubleshoot the cars remotely
- It could update/patch the software Over-The-Air (OTA)
- It didn’t require customers to bring vehicles to dealerships
- It expedited the time-to-service and potentially saved millions of dollars
There are various challenges to execute on an OTA strategy: development of these patches, distributing them to dealerships, making them secure, and finally delivering/updating them successfully without errors on a global scale at a moment’s notice. OTA updates need not be just limited in scope to vehicle recall issues due to software glitches either. A broad OTA strategy can enable the automobile manufacturer to expedite updates, patch intrusion or security risks, and enhance the user experience. OTA software updates for automobiles should not be an afterthought, but a well-defined workflow to optimize the whole process and make it seamless: for automobile manufacturers to transparently provide the update, and to the customers to seamlessly update their vehicles wherever they are.
See how Limelight helps companies deliver millions of software updates globally: both wired and over the air.
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