GM says most new vehicles to get over-the-air upgrade tech by 2023

The General Motors logo is seen outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan in this file photograph taken August 25, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky/Files

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co said on Monday most of its global models will be capable of over-the-air software upgrades by 2023, as the automaker rolls out new vehicle electrical systems designed to securely handle heavy data traffic and software downloads from the internet.

GM and other established automakers have been slow to catch up with electric automaker Tesla Inc, which has for years used smartphone-style over-the-air upgrade technology to change the function and feel of its vehicles overnight. Earlier this month, for example, Tesla responded to reports about its vehicles catching on fire by pushing out an over-the-air update for battery management software.

GM executives have said in the past that matching Tesla’s use of over-the-air updates would require new vehicle electrical systems, and robust cybersecurity to assure that vehicles could not be tampered with by hackers.

GM did not specify what vehicle systems and features would be open to over-the-air updates, but said the new system “enables the adoption of functionality upgrades throughout the lifespan of the vehicle.”

In 2016, GM President Mark Reuss, who at that time was head of global product development, said the company would not use over-the-air updates for safety-critical systems such as brakes.

The new GM electronic systems will be capable of handling up to 4.5 terabytes of data processing power per hour, five times the capability of current GM vehicles, the company said in a statement.

The new GM electrical systems will be launched on the 2020 Cadillac CT5 sedan, due to begin production later this year, GM said.

Reporting by Joe White; Editing by Paul Simao