Edmunds: The professionals and cons of software program operating your automotive

Software program was a giant theme for automakers attending CES 2023 in January. BMW, Stellantis, Volkswagen and a three way partnership between Honda and Sony confirmed off upcoming or idea automobiles which are considerably reliant on computer systems and code. The takeaway was clear: Increasingly automobiles can be run high to backside by software program, not {hardware}. In some circumstances, the long run is already right here.

What’s going to it’s like for customers when automobiles are dominated by bits and bytes as an alternative of gears and gaskets? Edmunds’ consultants break down what’s in retailer.


The phrase “software-defined car” is an trade time period used to make clear the distinction between a conventional automotive that’s enhanced by expertise and one that’s run by expertise.

Whereas vehicles of the previous 20 years have gained touchscreens and have loads of engine- and safety-related computing energy, these software program options are largely caught in time as soon as the automotive rolls off the meeting line. The longer term holds that just about each car characteristic can be managed by software program, which provide the potential to enhance options over time.

One other key distinction is updatability. Think about the smartphone. Their producers seamlessly replace their software program regularly to repair bugs and breaches and add performance. Software program-defined automobiles work equally. They’ve high-speed Wi-Fi and mobile connections that automakers use to ship out software program updates by way of the cloud to its automobiles. There’s no want for homeowners to convey their automobiles to a dealership or service heart.


Tesla is a pioneer of including software-based options to its automobiles. Through the years it has launched enhancements to the touchscreen interfaces and added new options resembling video video games. It’s even issued updates that improve car efficiency. Startup EV manufacturers Lucid and Rivian are following go well with by using over-the-air updates to present their automobiles new options and capabilities and concern bug fixes.

Software program additionally permits for the introduction of options that wouldn’t have been attainable previously. Genesis, Hyundai’s luxurious arm, is utilizing facial recognition and fingerprint scanning with its new all-electric GV60 crossover. The bodily key’s required to arrange each capabilities, however after that the proprietor can mainly function the automotive as simply as a smartphone.

Established firms are leaping in as properly. Final summer season, Ford used software program to allow its BlueCruise hands-free driving system in tens of hundreds of F-150s and Mustang Mach-Es. The automobiles had the {hardware} for the system already put in; the over-the-air replace made it full. It utilized to the vehicles wirelessly, with out the necessity for a vendor go to.

Upkeep is one other potential benefit. These extremely digital automobiles can monitor preventive and predictive upkeep and even diagnose issues from afar. It takes the guesswork out of what might go improper and what must be adjusted and not using a go to to a mechanic store or dealership.


Software program permits new options that wouldn’t have been attainable previously. However generally these options aren’t so nice in follow. Tesla and Rivian, for instance, use touchscreen-based controls to direct the move of the cabin’s air vents. It appears neat in idea however seems to be a finicky and distracting course of in real-world driving. Outdated-school air vents that you just regulate by hand simply work higher.

Software program crashes and glitches are additionally problematic. Points that PC customers are all too aware of can crop up in vehicles. It could be a touchscreen that goes clean and is inoperable whereas driving, glitchy operation of sure controls, or superior driver help options that aren’t as totally vetted as they need to be earlier than being added to automobiles.

The dangers of software program crashes and privateness breaches are actual points. It’s not exterior the realm of chance for somebody with malicious intentions to take over the operation of a automotive and trigger injury. Additionally, some consultants are each applauding the expertise and advising warning because it pertains to private information privateness: the extra information collected from drivers, the extra potential for hacking.


Software program will proceed to evolve to alter the car possession expertise. Take a look at-driving completely different new automobiles provides a way of how a lot digital performance you like. You would possibly benefit from the alternative for a fast repair or replace by way of Wi-Fi. However technology-averse customers will probably choose a car with a extra conventional design, which could embody shopping for used.


This story was supplied to The Associated Press by the automotive web site Edmunds.

Kristin Shaw is a contributor at Edmunds. Observe on Twitter


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