Tesla’s Risky Over-the-Air Software Program

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Add to the innovations made by electric car manufacture Tesla a new one. Drivers of the Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) flagship Model S will be able to get software upgrades “over-the-air.”

The company describes the new test program this way:

Today, we’re announcing details about new software being delivered to Model S customers through an over-the-air update. The new features further personalize the Model S ownership experience and help make the car smarter about owners’ individual preferences. This is the latest in a series of software updates issued since we launched Model S in 2012, enabling new features such as hill start assist, smart suspension controls, and energy saving sleep mode.

The Software v6.0 update introduces traffic-based navigation and commute advice, provides an in-car view of daily schedules, enables location-based air suspension settings, and allows owners to name their Model S and start it remotely using their mobile phone.

Tesla management says some of the changes are in “beta.” Nevertheless, the slew of upgrades are ambitious, and likely to boost Tesla’s already impressive image for leading edge products.

ALSO READ: Can Tesla Deliver 35,000 Cars This Year?

Tesla is not alone in the business of features like traffic navigation. Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) driverless car has similar characteristics. But industry experts say some of these features are flawed. That opens to door to whether Tesla risks its image if any of the upgrades create more problems than they solve.

Tesla may be hedging its bets by describing some of the features as in “beta”:

Traffic-Based Navigation (BETA)
The Model S navigation system will be a lot smarter. Navigation will now provide route suggestions based on real-time traffic and calculate estimated travel times accordingly. It will also update dynamically as traffic conditions change throughout your trip. This feature will also take into account traffic data shared by other Tesla vehicles on the road.

That gives the company grounds for an orderly retreat if there are any glitches.