published 28 March 2014
Elon Musk, responding to reports about Model S collisions and car fires:
The odds of fire in a Model S, at roughly 1 in 8,000 vehicles, are five times lower than those of an average gasoline car and, when a fire does occur, the actual combustion potential is comparatively small. However, to improve things further, we provided an over-the-air software update a few months ago to increase the default ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds, substantially reducing the odds of a severe underbody impact.
Wait, did you catch that? An over-the-air update that alters the vehicle’s suspension system?
I find this fascinating. Nearly all other cars on the road, even 2014 models, are incapable of remote software updates, partly for territorial reasons:
Unlike Tesla, most automakers depend on independent dealers to sell their cars, and dealers have good reason to oppose automatic updates that would take them out of the loop.
In my estimation, over-the-air updates are an inevitable part of our future, and consumer choice will eventually trump dealer opposition. It’s worth debating, however, whether or not it’s healthy for a software developer to remotely update your $70,000 car the same as it would your $300 phone, which is precisely what’s happening in this Hacker News thread (among other debates).
P.S. Equally fascinating to me is Elon’s choice to use Medium to share this kind of news with the world.