Ford Introduces OTA Updates That Could Lead to Fewer Dealership Visits

By Mia Bevacqua

By 2020, Ford promises most of its redesigned vehicles in the U.S. will have over-the-air (OTA) update capability. That means nearly every onboard computer module can be updated remotely. And it also means the customer will need to make fewer trips to the dealership.

Ford Positions Itself as a Forerunner in OTA Update Technology

Currently, Tesla is the only manufacturer to offer its customers the ability to update all onboard modules remotely. All other automakers require a trip to the dealer for software updates to critical systems, such as the powertrain or supplemental restraints.

But Ford intends to change that by fitting many of its 2020 models with OTA technology. The first vehicles equipped with the necessary hardware begin rolling out next year. About six months after that, the initial wave of software updates will become available.

Ford claims many of its updates will be virtually invisible to vehicle owners. The new software is installed in the background while the current software runs simultaneously. As a result, the download experience is seamless and unobtrusive.

There are, of course, some updates that will require a system reboot. Customers can select a time when they’d like to receive these updates. That way, the files aren’t downloaded when the vehicle is in use.

Also, vehicle owners can receive notifications when new software is available to download. If desired, updates can be installed automatically. In-vehicle notifications will alert the driver once the install is complete.

“Nobody wants to feel like they’re missing out on great features right after spending their hard-earned money on a new vehicle – that’s where our over-the-air updates can help,” said Don Butler, executive director, Connected Vehicle and Services, Ford Motor Company. “We can now help improve your vehicle’s capability, quality and overall driving experience while you’re sleeping.”

What OTA Updates Could Mean for OEMs and Dealerships

OTA updates can help vehicle manufacturers save money. When a recall is issued, the customer can receive a remote software update, instead of bringing their car into the dealership. That means the automaker doesn’t have to pay for the parts and labor associated with a traditional warranty claim.

And for that very reason, OTA updates could have a negative effect on the dealers themselves. Dealerships will be missing out on the revenue from warranty work, as well as any upsells that could have been made when the vehicle was in for repair.

OTA updates aren’t going to wipe out traditional warranty work. At least not yet. But the technology is poised to be commonplace, so it’s something to consider.