Android Automotive and over-the-air updates coming to GM cars

GM models will use Google Automotive and GM’s Ultifi software to provide in-car subscriptions from 2023

GM Ultifi software
(Image credit: GM)

Vehicle software updates are going to be more common over the next few years. This week, General Motors announced that many of its new vehicles will feature its new Ultifi platform to allow over-the-air updates and in-car subscriptions.

The software, which will feature in both electric (EV) and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles is set to roll out in 2023 and will allow for upgrades and personalization options. Ultifi could potentially be used for controlling everything from facial recognition systems to start the engine to providing limits for younger drivers.

GM is also due to start rolling out Android Automotive – an in-built version of Google Auto – to its cars from this year, the first being the Hummer EV. It appears that the two systems will work together, with Ultifi providing the car features and Android Automotive providing the infotainment features.

The ability to update a vehicle’s software remotely is a benefit to drivers. Technology is changing so rapidly that, without updates, it’s possible for features to become out of date before the warranty is even up – or even before its off the forecourt. It also allows new features to be added and problems to be solved without a recall.

The danger, of course, is that you will be stuck in a constant cycle of updates or that car companies will use updates as a way to make more money out of customers. Certain premium features are likely to be made available for a monthly fee, rather than a one-off extra when you buy the car. This is something many software companies have adopted as it provides a steady income stream rather than peaks and troughs.

In time, it could be that, like the software, the cars themselves will be purchased on a monthly basis and then upgraded like our smartphones. Current lease options are only a step away from this anyway. If it means better technology in our vehicles, I’m all for it.

Mat Gallagher
Mat Gallagher

As T3's Managing Editor in the US, Mat is a true lover of gadgets, but especially anything that involves cameras, cars, music or travel. Originally from the UK, he has written about technology since 2003 and is now based in Chicago.