What Are Tesla Over-the-Air Updates?

One of the coolest parts about owning a Tesla vehicle is the availability of over-the-air updates. These updates, known by Tesla owners as “OTAs,” are software improvements that Tesla sends to your vehicle wirelessly. That’s right, just like those software updates that you download onto your cell phone, your Tesla vehicle will occasionally have them too.

Does Tesla Charge for over-the-air updates?

a blue Tesla Model S zooms down the road
Tesla Model S | Tesla

No. Electrek notes that the over-the-air updates are “delivered remotely from a cloud-based server via a WIFI connection to your EV,” which means that Tesla owners don’t need to pay out of pocket for the updates. Tesla states that these updates are meant to improve your car over time. However, some of the upgrades are available for purchase. These upgrades typically offer additional improvements or features that can enhance the car’s performance or capability.

What comes with over-the-air updates?

Tesla Model 3 with touchscreen
Tesla Model 3 with touchscreen | Tesla

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There are two different types of over-the-air updates: software over-the-air (SOTA) and firmware over-the-air (FOTA) updates. SOTA updates have to do with anything software-related that can control the vehicle’s physical controls (like the infotainment and navigation) and electronic processing system.

On the other hand, the FOTA updates include updates to the vehicle’s firmware, or the system itself. While not every electric vehicle manufacturer has the ability to update their vehicle’s firmware over the air, Tesla fortunately does. According to JD Power, some of the most common over-the-air updates that can occur include refreshed map information for the navigation system, audio upgrades, app updates, and more.

Some of the more pertinent over-the-air updates include those that have to do with driver control. These updates can improve the way the car drives and even correct issues with the car’s powertrain and chassis systems, in addition to the advanced driver safety systems.

For example, if you currently own a Tesla vehicle, for a cool $10,000 you can buy the Full Self-Driving Capability package that includes autopilot navigation, auto lane change, Autopark, Summon, and Traffic Light and Stop Sign control. While they may sound extensive, these updates will be delivered to your car completely wirelessly and be done in about an hour, according to Tesla.

Advantages of over-the-air updates

A Tesla Model Y displayed in a Manhattan dealership on January 30, 2020, in New York City
The Tesla Model Y has falcon wings, but what about mud flaps? | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

As we can see, Tesla’s over-the-air updates are extremely convenient for Tesla owners all over the world. Here are some of the key advantages to having these types of updates:

  • No need to visit the dealership: Since a majority of the updates are software related, they can all be done in the comfort of your own home – or garage.
  • Save time and money: With OTA updates, the manufacturer saves money in labor costs while the Tesla owner saves time by not having to go anywhere.
  • Constant vehicle updates: Much like the phone in your pocket, the Tesla sitting in your garage can be updated throughout the years without needing to upgrade the car itself.
  • Safety advantage: Your Tesla vehicle will remain as safe as possible thanks to any safety feature updates that are made over the air.

Tesla’s over-the-air updates keep the EV manufacturer ahead of the game when it comes to in-car technology. As we head into an automotive future filled with electric vehicles and hybrid cars, there’s no doubt that these types of improvements will be necessary to keep cars safe and up-to-date. For now, it’s definitely one of the best parts of owning a Tesla.

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