Automakers take cues from Apple with ongoing software updates in vehicles

“The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class has cameras that can read road signs and sensors to judge distance to the car in front, but is not yet able to make full use of the hardware,” Edward Taylor and Ilona Wissenbach report for Reuters. “What may sound like a shortcoming is in fact a deliberate strategy by manufacturer Daimler, and a sign of things to come for the global luxury car industry.”

“Owners of the upscale Mercedes compact will be able to add new functions such as predictive cruise control – which lets the car drive itself in some situations – by updating the car’s operating system when the technology becomes available,” Taylor and Wissenbach report. “Taking their cue from gadget makers such as Apple, Daimler and rivals are developing cars to receive software updates that include new tools or even improve fuel efficiency, much in the way an iPad gets new capabilities with each successive operating system. That is a big change – and a potential saving – for an industry used to spending heavily to revamp ageing models. ‘We are entering a new era,’ Mercedes-Benz development chief Thomas Weber told Reuters. ‘Until now, cars retained the properties they had on the day they were purchased.'”

“Upgrades to software are not always popular, however, as Microsoft found with its Windows 8 operating system. Increasing complexity in vehicles can also bring problems,” Taylor and Wissenbach report. “Renault blamed glitches with the R-Link touch-screen entertainment and navigation panel for delays to its Zoe electric car, while Ford tumbled to the bottom end of U.S. vehicle reliability rankings because of flaws in its rival MyFord Touch system.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Lesson for vehicle makers: Choose the right platform or you could easily end up killing your sales.

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Apple battles Google to forge vehicle ties – December 30, 2013
Apple patent application reveals in-vehicle holistic ID for ‘iOS in the Car’ – December 12, 2013
ABI Research: Apple’s ‘iOS in the Car’ to be No. 1 in-vehicle system by 2018 – November 1, 2013
General Motors adds Apple’s Siri Eyes Free to more vehicles following ‘remarkable’ customer response – October 16, 2013
Hidden contacts revealed within Apple’s iOS in the Car – August 8, 2013
Automakers integrate Apple’s iOS in the Car to minimize driver distraction, increase customer satisfaction – July 30, 2013
Why Apple is planning aggressive 2014 launch for ‘iOS in the Car’ – July 26, 2013
Why Tim Cook described Apple’s iOS in the Car strategy as ‘very important’ – July 25, 2013
Apple has its eyes on automakers with ‘iOS in the Car’ – July 5, 2013
Ford plummets to 27th in J.D. Power vehicle quality rankings on Microsoft-developed ‘MyFord Touch’ woes – June 20, 2012


  1. “MyFord”??? They’re just trying to change the name of “Sync” as fast as they can. It still has Microsoft written all over it, which a customer can smell just by driving one. I wouldn’t sit in one with an FOB in the vicinity.

  2. I went to the San Jose auto show yesterday and spent 4 hours checking out the latest models. I ask many of the reps who were there to tout their cars about Siri Eyes Free. Quite a few did not seem to know anything about it. Cadillac guy however gave me a very great demonstration using his iPhone connected via USB to a new CTS model. It has a sort of secret panel in the dash where you can plug in your iPhone. Very nice. You can also use blutooth, but the USB charges the phone. That demo was really impressive. Unfortunately, I am not interested in a Cadillac, I was there to check out Acura MDX and Lexus 450h. Not one at either had any Siri knowledge. BMW did not have a working demo, nor did Mercedes. Was disappointed Audi said no Siri, and Tesla only had one car there, and it was locked and no reps.

  3. I’ve owned pro-audio equipment which has been software upgradeable and the downside is that when the manufacturer adds a useful feature, they might well change the way another feature operates. You can’t load half an update, so you get all the changes that come with that release.

    It’s bad enough when you’re using equipment for a living and it suddenly starts functioning in a way that you aren’t used to, but in something like a car, a minor control changing it’s way of operation can be very distracting. I had that when my car came back from a service and a day or two later, I noticed that the one-touch window opening no longer functioned as before. My dealer subsequently told me about a sequence of key presses to restore the previous operation, but couldn’t explain why it changed during the service.

    Car manufacturers will have to be very disciplined and be careful that they don’t alter even minor controls that the customer has got used to without warning them first and preferably allowing selective opt-outs for any changes.

  4. Difference with these updates than apple will be that you still need to go to the dealer to perform the update. No way car dealers will lose the chance to scam a customer in their shop for more work. Updates will on,y be performed by “qualified” mechanics. And car manufacturers are afraid of the dealers.
    This is one reason the dealers are fighting tesla.

  5. MDN Nice Take: “Lesson for vehicle makers: Choose the right platform or you could easily end up killing your sales.”

    Real World Take: “Lesson for vehicle makers: Choose the right platform or you could easily end up killing your customers.”

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