While both new car manufacturers and traditional OEMs are embracing software updates as revenue generation tool, there could still be some bumps in the road ahead. There’s no doubt that adding additional features and upgrades to a car after the initial sale can drive new revenue streams (see part one of this blog series) for carmakers, but all great opportunities come with their share of challenges.

Currently, the cost and complexity involved in overhauling legacy plated processes mean some OEMs have forms been slow to adopt OTA updates as a method of delivering feature and firmware upgrades. However, legislation, new regulations, and maintaining the user experience could present an equally sizeable barrier.


As vehicles become more sophisticated, the cost to keep them up-to-date with the latest features could easily spiral out of control. Some methods of updating a vehicle require huge amounts of data to be stored and transmitted for every update. Both full-image and binary updates could see costs run into the millions for cloud storage alone. To provide the type of updates demanded by consumers, OEMs need to look for ways to reduce these costs.

One method is through Line-of-Code Intelligence, which doesn’t fully overwrite the flash storage in a vehicle. Instead, it just updates what is necessary and writes to the next available space on the chip. This can help to reduce costs (as there’s less data to store and transmit), as well as improve the experience for the end-user.

User experience

As a driver, there’s nothing more frustrating than jumping in your car only to find out you have to wait for the vehicle to update before you can use its core functionalities. If manufacturers are to deliver new features to a vehicle in order to increase revenue, the experience needs to be seamless.

Because, full-image and binary updates erase the previous code, the driver would need to wait while the car is being updated. In most cases, this shouldn’t take too long, but it’s far from convenient. Line-of-code updates are a little different, however, and allow the driver to continue on as normal with no break in how they use their vehicle. This is because the previous code isn’t erased, so the old version of the software can continue to run while the update is being delivered.

Safety concerns

While many manufacturers are currently able to make updates as needed to their vehicles, some experts have safety concerns, arguing that novelty and performance features could cause problems. Even where OTA updates are delivered to improve safety, the argument is that these may not have been adequately tested in the same way they would be at the point of manufacture.

Legislation is coming into place that references OTA updates, how they’re tested, and the impact of new safety features. This is on top of insurance validity concerns around changing the functionalities of a vehicle, especially when manufacturers offer free trials of different services or those on a subscription.

The UN has already established a set of rules around cybersecurity and software updates. The WP.29 rules (R155 and R156) will come into force in the EU in July 2022 and will be mandatory for all vehicles by 2024. While many of these rules surround cybersecurity, they’re also focused on “providing safe and secure software updates and ensuring vehicle safety is not compromised.”

As well as safety and security around software updates, WP.29 will also cover these areas:

  • Managing vehicle cyber risks
  • Securing vehicles by design to mitigate risks along the value chain
  • Detecting and responding to security incidents across a vehicle fleet

Manufacturers will need to comply with these regulations for all features delivered with the vehicle, as well as those delivered via an update. While it will take time for these regulations to come into force fully, it’s important that manufacturers take steps to ensure they are fully and satisfactorily adopted.

Insurance increases

Many insurers consider new features delivered via an OTA update to be a modification to the vehicle. This could lead to an increase in insurance prices or, at worst, render the cover invalid. We all know to report modifications to our insurer, but the rules around new features delivered over the air aren’t quite so clear.

Recently, UK insurer LV did a U-turn on its policies after charging Tesla owners a premium following routine software updates. It told the consumer association Which?: “We now recognize that it isn’t fair to expect customers to contact us for every update, so as a result of this valid challenge, we are changing our approach.”

With no existing set of rules for insurers, each will decide its own approach to these updates. This could make life difficult for consumers and could impact how car manufacturers deliver updates in the future.

Vehicle Software Intelligence as a solution

While there may be challenges ahead for OEMs, the opportunities for revenue generation are too good to ignore — especially in this rapidly evolving market. One solution that could ease the pain of these safety and regulatory challenges is artificial intelligence, specifically Vehicle Software Intelligence. This makes the update process more straightforward for car manufacturers by minimizing the size of update files, reducing costs, and giving accurate visibility of a vehicle’s entire software system — supporting auditing and compliance efforts.

While software-defined vehicle manufacturers are leading the way when it comes to delivering OTA updates, legacy OEMs are catching up. In fact, more than 20% of industry experts expect software sales to account for at least 10% of carmakers’ sales by 2027. The road may not be as smooth as some may hope but it’s the early adopters that will reap the rewards in the years to come.

Find out more about how Vehicle Software Intelligence could help your business here.