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GM Moves to Make Connected Vehicles Perform Like Smartphones

Beginning in 2023, select next-generation vehicles from General Motors will be able to receive over-the-air upgrades, personalization options and app selections that look and act like a smartphone.

The digital upgrade will be enabled by the automaker’s new end-to-end software platform that it announced on Wednesday (Sept. 29). The company said its “Ultifi” platform will be built into select Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick models.

“[The Ultifi platform] is part of GM’s pursuit to grow revenue beyond vehicle sales and earn customer loyalty for a lifetime,” the automaker said in the press release.

Ability to Innovate

With software-defined features, apps and services delivered over the air, customers will not have to take their vehicles to the dealer for these upgrades. GM notes that some updates and premium features will be available at an additional cost.

Some of these upgrades and settings can be saved to authenticated accounts, so they can be transferred between similarly equipped GM vehicles, GM’s release said.

While Ultifi is a GM in-house platform, it is being developed with external developers in mind, so GM will be able to give authorized third-party developers the ability to innovate for its customers.

In the future, GM says, with Ultifi’s cloud-based connectivity, internal cameras could be used for facial recognition to start the vehicle’s engine. Additional capabilities include adjustable teen driver settings and the ability for vehicles to communicate with a smart home to control the security system or thermostat. Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) applications could also alert drivers to hazards or changing road conditions.

A New, Digital Customer Experience

This news follows a Sept. 13 announcement by Volkswagen that, effective immediately, all ID. models will receive regular software updates via mobile data transfer. This ID. Software 2.3 offers new functions and optimizes existing ones.

“Full availability of our Over-The-Air Updates underlines the innovative capacity of Volkswagen and forms the basis for a completely new, digital customer experience,” Volkswagen CEO Ralf Brandstattr said in the press release.

In the future, the company plans to provide its customers with free software around every 12 weeks. Volkswagen is also aiming to boost revenue during the usage phase with new, data-based business models for services and functions that the customer can now order, the release said. The company sees the potential to generate hundreds of millions in additional revenue over the next few years.

A Central Functionality

“The new updates are a central functionality of the digital, connected car,” Thomas Ulbrich, member of the Board of Management for Technical Development, said in the press release. “They will quickly become normal for our customers, in the same way as they have for their smartphones.”

Volkswagen and GM are joining some other automakers that are already offering over-the-air updates. For example, BMW models equipped with BMW iDrive 7 and BMW Remote Software Upgrade have enabled drivers to keep the vehicle up-to-date with the latest software since 2018. Tesla, too, provides over-the-air software updates that add new features and enhance existing ones over Wi-Fi.

The car is rapidly becoming a conduit of commerce. In a recent PYMNTS interview, JPMorgan CEO of Merchant Services Max Neukirchen told Karen Webster that the car is “becoming a device,” connecting drivers to payments, to a broad range of services tied to maintaining the vehicle itself, and even, eventually, to banking.

See more: Beyond Paying for Gas and Tolls, JPMorgan’s Max Neukirchen Envisions ‘Delightful’ Connected Economy on Wheels

Connected cars also can help drivers get lower auto premiums when they share data with their insurance companies. PYMNTS recently reported how Ford and Kia enabled that in agreements with LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

Also see: Ford, Kia Allow Motorists to Link Connected Cars to Insurers for Better Rates

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