By on May 12, 2020

Over-the-air (OTA) updates are opening new doors for manufacturers, providing a way to continuously update vehicles after they’ve been purchased. We’ve had mixed feelings on their implementation.

While Tesla has used OTA updates to enhance features on its products, it also sees the technology as a way to rationalize customers paying up front for systems that have failed to manifest. The company has showed a willingness to digitally remove content on vehicles entering the secondhand market — to the chagrin of sellers and those taking possession of a freshly neutered automobile. Meanwhile, Volkswagen has deemed adhering to the launch date of its ID.3 electric hatchback more important than having all the software bugs worked out — with the assumption being that they’ll just be fixed later.

Our cursory assessment on over-the-air updates has been that they seem to possess countless opportunities for the industry to innovate and/or take advantage of customers. And it’s the main reason we’re not celebrating Ford’s recent announcement that the Mach-E will be equipped to receive OTA updates quite as loudly as other outlets. 

The Blue Oval promises its all-electric crossover will stay up to date thanks to digital updates that can be done from anywhere. Changes are said to take under two minutes and be “virtually invisible to customers, enabled by an innovative cloud-connected platform that keeps current software running until a new version is ready to go.”

In fact, many changes will be enacted without the driver’s knowledge for a sublimely seamless presentation. Owners will be able to check to see what software has been installed at their own discretion.

“The beauty of the Mustang Mach-E is that what our customers experience on day one is just the beginning — it will evolve to add even more features and capabilities over time,” John Vangelov, connected services manager for Ford Motor Co., said in a statement. “Our clever over-the-air updates also minimize downtime through incredibly fast activation and ensure your Mustang Mach-E is always getting better, even when you’re asleep.”

As spilling the beans on what updates might be around the corner could discourage a few launch day buyers, Ford is understandably not sharing planned OTA features right now. It did say, however, that these would “go well beyond SYNC updates,” even though we’re presuming multimedia and apps as being the main focus.

From Ford:

Nearly all Mustang Mach-E computer modules can be updated wirelessly, meaning Ford can provide performance enhancements and entirely new features that might not exist when customers first take delivery of their vehicles.

Some installations will be virtually invisible to customers, who can select a regular time — such as the middle of the night — for updates while their Mustang Mach-E is parked. Many updates will be completed almost instantly after a customer starts their vehicle, while in-vehicle alerts will tell them what improvements have been installed. Many can be completed in under two minutes, and more complex updates that might require the vehicle to be parked for longer can be scheduled to take place when customers find it most convenient.

The manufacturer said the first updates will be issued roughly six months after the Mach-E’s now-delayed production kickoff. Ford had originally slated the first deliveries to take place at the end of 2020, but the health crisis has made that an issue in some regions. While the United States has yet to be told to hold onto any metaphorical horses, odds are decent that Ford will postpone the model beyond October if it feels the economic climate isn’t right. For now, the automaker has only said it wants to wait until factories reopen before discussing the prospect of further delays.

[Images: Ford Motor Co.]

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26 Comments on “Confirmed: Ford Mach-E Will Support Over-the-air Updates...”

  • avatar

    I wonder how many cars will fail to start because its owner missed a payment.

  • avatar

    If over-the-air updates were limited to safety recalls, they would be a good idea. Many people never bring their vehicles in for recalls even though the work done is completely free. What is certain to happen, however, is that the updates will be marketing junk for which the manufacturer gets paid by an advertiser and which annoy the owner. One of the benefits of recording television programs is that I can fast forward through the commercials. I don’t want to have to do this in my automobile or, worse yet, not be able to.

    If the producers of goods and services ever figure out how little impact advertising has on consumers, expect a lot of attrition in mass media and steep price increases from the survivors. My wife actively resents the ads that pop up when she is on the internet. (I have installed AdBlock on everything.) I tune them out the point they don’t even register.

    • 0 avatar

      The purpose here is not ease of update and/or flashes. The purpose is DATA MINING. Many companies will pay big $$$ for the data that Ford will collect from this.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        @ Jon, I don’t think Ford, GM, or any other manufacturer sells their data that is pushed to their vehicles. Same thing with Sirius.

        • 0 avatar
          Steve Biro

          The point is, the vehicle will always be connected to the Internet. Which means information about everything you do, everywhere you go and how you do it will be available for purchase by third parties. They can keep it.

  • avatar

    If it works good, skip the updates. Way more bad than good can come from them.

    I’ll avoid the dealer, even for free oil changes and minor warranty work. I’ll leave alone or do/fix it myself just to avoid those criminals.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Tesla drivers welcome the updates. With a few exceptions, they always make the car better.

      • 0 avatar

        They can keep their little improvements. I wouldn’t have bought it if was lacking in any way, “as-is”.

        • 0 avatar

          “I wouldn’t have bought it if was lacking in any way,”

          Other than maybe a steering wheel bolt here and there and a couple of layers of paint, they really weren’t lacking before the upgrades. They’ve been making some nice horsepower upgrades for free. If you want a 500+ hp all wheel drive sedan, the competition is lacking far more.

          • 0 avatar

            Tesla has modified cars to change the maximum rate of charge, the maximum rate of acceleration or the maximum range – reductions in all cases. They may make further changes to cars as they age to better manage (extend) battery life. They’ve done this in the past. But the notion that the cars can be continuously improved forever is false.

          • 0 avatar

            ” – reductions in all cases.”

            Reductions? They’ve increased range. Increased horsepower, and I suppose reduced the time needed to get from 0 to 60. Most recent was the “Cheetah Mode” addition to the S.

            There are starting to put a price tag on some performance upgrades (Model 3 LR performance boost upgrade) and that may be the future with them.


          • 0 avatar

            When your car develops glitches, dollars to donuts they came from updates.

            But aren’t updates actually holdbacks for when you buy them new?

  • avatar

    If society wants to start treating cars like they’re cell phones, that’s fine–right up to the point where these half-baked pieces of junk cause people to die.

    It’s one thing if you want to deal with half-baked cell phones. But the moment we accept that the same “we know it’s not ready, we’ll fix it later” is OK on a car moving down the road in traffic, we will have officially gone over the edge.

  • avatar

    Oh Boy! A way to be spied on and have your privacy sold to any bidder! Who cares if the Mach E is any good. I want one! /s

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    One thing George Orwell failed to predict, was that not only Big Brother, but your vehicle would be watching you!

    The opportunities for malfeasance are limitless.
    I can see hackers entering the vehicle’s software thru a security exploit and installing ransomware.
    You are not going anywhere in the middle of the night if you don’t make a payment, for instance.

    With respect to VW’s intentions…….Lord Almighty, those guys never learn anything!

  • avatar

    It’s good they delayed. Engineers will have more time to fix bugs.

  • avatar

    I really hate to break it to folks, but pretty much every car sold in the US since 2010 has had some level of data collection capability. OnStar has been at it for much longer; that system has had the ability to pull diagnostic codes since at least the early 2000s. That ship sailed a long time ago and got a lot worse once people started using Android Auto / Apple CarPlay. (You think the OEMs are bad? They just want early warranty / potential recall warnings. Apple and Google, on the other hand….)

    • 0 avatar

      I am aware of this, but at least with my car the data is mine until I connect with my phone

    • 0 avatar

      doorbell and other cams can even track vintage cars.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      @ anomaly149, so basically OnStar can collect OBD codes? Going with that as a premise, the OBD codes are linked to your vehicle’s VIN. GM then has a database with the vehicle’s VIN that merges with the information on your registration. Example: el scotto’s SR has one too many beers at the 19th hole, el scotto SR drives his Suburban into a ditch. Suburban’s can bus starts throwing (bad) codes like a ward heeler handing out government jobs. el scoto SR wakes up with OnStar asking if he is all right.

  • avatar

    Ok. Off topic, I can buy into the concept of using Mustang as a sub-brand for this electric CUV, BUT Mustangs have an iconic front end appearance that this thing just does NOT have at all.

  • avatar

    I was looking at buying a video game on Steam last night. Twenty bucks for the video game, but after all the DLC it was $95. New Ford Mach-E – $40,000. All the DLC – $200,000, and they can revoke it at any time for ‘technical reasons’, or just because their license with a 3rd party ran out.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Any hand held electronic device you take with you allows someone to track you. Your cell phone passes your location from tower to tower. Remember roaming fees? Your cell phone company knows where you are. You’re allowing your cell phone company to know this. There is no evidence that any cell phone company or car company is selling your data to third parties. That information is not marketable, yet. You gave them permission anyway.

  • avatar

    Slightly off topic, but who else here thinks that the Mach-E is Ford’s way of seeing if the general public would tolerate a Mustang SUV (eventually replacing the current sports coupe and convertible), much like the Probe tested the tolerance for a Japanese Mustang? The current Mustang, unlike the Challenger and Camaro, shares no major components with any other vehicle. Ford must be thinking about keeping the valuable Mustang name but making it into something, you know, more profitable.

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