We often think of Tesla as the masters of over-the-air updates to their vehicles, fixing bugs, and delivering new features. It seems Chinese-based NIO has also mastered this modern discipline of auto manufacturing, delivering more than 39 major iterations in just the past 2 years.
In a new report that reflects on the 2 year anniversary of delivering over-the-air updates, we see the impressive progress being made. Perhaps the most impressive part is that this new automaker has been in business for just 6 years.
Between October 31st, 2018 and October 31st, 2020, NIO released:
- 29 major iterations covering 4 models
- 131 new features
- 280 feature optimisations
- 411 product improvements in total
- 350k+ pushes in total
Like Tesla, the NIO community is very active in suggesting improvements and many of the changes to the car’s software is a result of listening to that feedback.
These updates address 4 major domains, Driver Assist, Powertrain, Chassis and Infotainment. Unlike traditional ICE vehicles where the infotainment and vehicle control systems are segmented, these newer EV platforms allow for a single software layer that talks to all areas of the vehicle. The firmware updates not only improve the interface to the driver, but also update as many as 35 electronic control units throughout the vehicle.
Naturally when you’re moving from a model where you had 1 ECU that was shipped in a car and never changed, to a model where these controllers that manage acceleration, braking, steering and emergency systems, it’s important that security of these updates is of the highest priority. Like Tesla, the software released to the vehicles is digitally signed, and only with that signature (from NIO) can the OTA update be applied.
What’s interesting is how the car components talk to each other. With the vehicles technology suite of cameras, sensors, radar etc allow providing inputs, decisions have to be made hundreds of times per second. To ensure that data flows fast, NIO transmit the data using Gigabit Ethernet, making the description of a computer on wheels, feel incredibly accurate.
An example of one important update related to driving on snow and ice. Initially the vehicle was prone to skidding when starting up on snow or ice. To solve this issue, NIO released ‘Snow Mode’ that offered a 50/50 torque distribution between the front and rear wheels. This arrived in NIO OS 2.4.0 in December 2019.
NIO currently addresses just 5 markets, China, Germany, Hong Kong, United Kingdom and United States. They company makes some really compelling electric vehicles, so I’d love to see them bring their vehicles to Australia and increase competitions in our market.