Mary Barra: GM launching over-the-air updates 'before 2020'


Barra: “We are in the process of deploying a new electrical architecture.” Photo credit: REUTERS

DETROIT — General Motors plans to launch a new electrical vehicle architecture and infotainment system capable of over-the-air updates “before 2020,” CEO Mary Barra said.

The company has remotely updated its in-vehicle OnStar services, but it has not used over-the-air, or OTA, updates for infotainment and mechanical software systems like some competitors — most notably, Tesla Inc.

“We are in the process of deploying a new electrical architecture, which is a pretty comprehensive undertaking, and that’s well under way … as well as a whole new generation of infotainment systems,” Barra said during an analyst conference call Tuesday to discuss its second-quarter earnings of $ 1.66 billion. “You’ll see us have that capability as we move forward.”

A GM spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the announced plans, which come a day after connectivity service provider Globetouch Inc. announced it is working with GM and Verizon Telematics to integrate its “open platform GControl” with OnStar.

It’s unclear whether the new partnership, which GM previously declined to discuss, has to do with the forthcoming electrical vehicle architecture and infotainment system.

Globetouch, in a press release Monday, described its GControl platform as adding “key components for efficient and robust data transport” for companies. That includes “resilient” 4G LTE connectivity as well as data collection for “real time analytics.”

“By providing a single point of integration for GM and other automotive OEMs, Globetouch ensures a world-class experience for end customers,” said Globetouch CEO Riccardo Di Blasio in a statement.

After Tesla’s launch of OTA updates in 2015, traditional automakers are slowly embracing the technology.

Ford, most recently, announced plans to add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to its Sync 3-equipped 2016 vehicles via a wireless software update.

OTA updates are seen as a key part of connected and autonomous vehicles, as they allow companies to remotely update systems and provide real-time updates when needed. OTA updates are expected to save automakers billions of dollars and could fundamentally alter the relationship among drivers, automakers and dealerships.

In addition to being able to instantly download new infotainment system and map features, the frequency of trips to the dealership for repairs could be cut down for the average driver. For instance, a driver who would have had to go to the local dealership for a software-related repair might soon be able to have the fix wirelessly installed on the vehicle without leaving home.

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