Tesla Motors announced it is introducing a software upgrade over-the-air to its current Model S owners, a unique ability that other companies are expected to offer in a couple years.
The Silicon Valley has completed more than a dozen over-the-air software upgrades since the Model S was first sold in mid-2012, said Egil Juliussen, director of research for automotive electronic technology for IHS Automotive, according to Reuters.
Juliussen said other automakers have completed some over-the-air software upgrades on an experimental basis.
Usually owners have to bring vehicles to dealerships when a company wants to upgrade software in on-board computers in cars that are already on the road. Tesla is able to upgrade software remotely, the same way Apple updates software on its smartphones.
Some 30,000 vehicles have been updated over the air in 2014, almost all by Tesla. By 2020, about 22 million new vehicles globally will have the ability to accept software upgrades over-the-air, said Juliussen.
He added that by 2015, over-the-air software upgrades to cars already in consumer hands should expand to 230,000 and could reach 1 million in 2016.
"The cost savings alone will make it very attractive for the auto manufacturers to use over-the-air software upgrades," said Juliussen.
Car companies will likely team up with software developers for over-the-air communication with the vehicles they have sold sometime in the near future. Red Bend Software, based in Waltham, Massachusetts; Symphony Teleca Corp based in Silicon Valley; and Arynga, based in San Diego, are in the lead in this venture.
Juliussen said that it can cost $400 to $500 every time an owner brings a car into a dealership for a software upgrade. By doing so remotely, it will cut those costs dramatically, and dealers will no longer have to purchase as much equipment.
Tesla connects its cars through a 3G network of AT&T, and it is calling its latest upgrade announced "Software v6.0." Tesla is introducing the upgrades in North American and Europe, and within a couple a weeks will be performing them for owners in places like Japan, China, and Hong Kong.