General Motors developing wireless download of new features

A logo at a GM dealership is seen in New York May 15, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Detroit (Reuters) - General Motors Co is developing technology to allow new features to be downloaded wirelessly, the automaker’s head of vehicle development said on Wednesday.

GM global product development chief Mark Reuss said the company is developing a new electrical architecture for its vehicles, which he called “Global B,” that will move much of a vehicle’s computer power to the mobile internet, or cloud.

“It will become cloud based,” Reuss said, adding that the new architecture will allow future GM cars to have new features downloaded wirelessly. GM has looked to aircraft maker Boeing Co and military contractors for ideas on how to develop network security for the systems.

Reuss, meeting with reporters in Detroit, did not lay out a specific timetable for deploying the new, upgradeable electrical and data systems, but indicated it would be soon.

GM, like most major automakers, has been slow to enable over-the-air upgrades for its vehicles. Silicon Valley luxury electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc, by contrast, designed its Model S sedan to accept new features and functions through wireless upgrades, in a manner similar to a smartphone.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has said that properly equipped Model S sedans could be upgraded to have new features such as automated parking or limited hands-free driving.

Reuss, meeting with reporters at an event in Detroit, also said the new Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan, which GM unveiled Wednesday, could earn $1,500 to $2,000 more profit per car than its predecessor. Previously, GM had said the car would earn about $1,500 more than the outgoing model.

On a separate issue, Reuss said GM needs to develop a low-cost vehicle it can sell in markets such as India. Asked if GM needs a car to compete with low-cost vehicles launched in India by the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Reuss gave a one-word answer: “Yes.”

Reporting by Joe White; Editing by Leslie Adler