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Technology is constantly altering the automotive space. For example, electric vehicles are changing mobility forever. Now, car recalls are changing car buying and ownership experiences, and hopefully, it’s for the better. The way recalls are traditionally handled can be a real hassle for consumers, but automakers have taken inspiration from cell phones to help ease the pain of a time-consuming recall.

Car recalls are being done over-the-air

A man walks through a dealership, wearing a suit and speaking into a cellphone
Dealerships must change or be left behind | Valery Sharifulin via Getty Images

If you’ve ever updated your cell phone’s operating system, or your PlayStation, or your PC, or any number of personal electronics, congratulations. You’re ahead of the curve, and already familiar with the process automakers are using to change recalls as we know them. Over-the-air style updates are helping to fix one of the most common sources of car recalls: software glitches. According to the NHTSA, an increasing number of car recalls are now software related.

New cars are more computer than car in a great many ways. Now, nearly every aspect of your car is controlled by a computer. However, with that handy tech comes a new set of maintenance issues for owners. Some people may know how to turn a wrench, but the world of car electronics still belongs to a very niche group of people. Thankfully, one manufacturer started the shift that is now changing the industry.

Tesla are pioneers once again

The badge of a Tesla Model S sedan
Tesla’s logo on the Model S sedan | Spencer Platt via Getty Images

Tesla is a company known for shaking up the auto industry, for better or worse. Now, all Tesla vehicles come equipped with a close-to-identical infotainment system and software suite in each model. This way of thinking makes over-the-air updates easy, and has for some time. It’s now commonplace for Tesla to fix any number of issues via a simple software update. Almost instant software updates mean there’s little to no downtime for owners. This simple improvement means a lot to a great many people.

All Tesla needs to get an over-the-air update out is a WiFi network. This time-saving measure now means that car recalls for Tesla are a simple and painless process. For example, Tesla “recalled” a truly massive number of vehicles in China. In short, there was a glitch that caused unintended acceleration when using the brand’s Autopilot software. Thankfully, the company resolved the issue with an over-the-air update.

The rest of the industry must follow suit

A mechanic works on the engine of a car
A mechanic repairs a car’s engine | Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

These tactics are now forcing the rest of the industry to adapt. The convenience of over-the-air updates from Tesla is yet another plus for consumers, and it shows in the company’s earnings reports. Now, other automakers are fighting to catch up. Cadillac’s update software is still slow to install, but can be done when the vehicle is turned off. For now, Tesla has set a bar, and automakers must now hurry to reach it.


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