The Beauty of Over-The-Air Software Updates

Ford just announced the E-Transit, an electric version of their market-leading Ford Transit commercial van. The announcement contains lots of good information about Ford’s electric ambitions, but the bit that excited me was a bit of a footnote: over-the-air updates.

Tesla pioneered OTA updates years ago, but it’s taken most of the big auto manufacturers a while to follow suit. Ford already promised that the upcoming Mustang Mach-E will have OTA capability — combined with OTA for the E-Transit, this seems like a trend.

Most pure software products that I use today is updated continuously, in most cases because the software itself is hosted in the cloud anyway. Internet of Things software, like the code in my car or my microwave, is much less likely to be connected to the cloud and easy to update.

Those updates are so crucial. Being stuck with software that was written at the time you made a purchase really dates hardware. Ford’s own press release for the Mach-E cities FOMO.

OTA helps a product get better over time, not worse. That’s a game-changer for assets that typically depreciate, like cars. OTAs don’t typically flip a depreciating asset into an appreciating one — it’s still nicer to have a new unit with the newest hardware and the newest software. But OTAs really help slow the depreciating utility of hardware like cars.

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