We are excited to bring you insights into cutting-edge developments in the automotive industry. Get ready to delve into the world of satellite-requested road service, where technology meets convenience. Stay informed about the latest system updates in vehicles that enhance your driving experience. Discover essential tips on battery service and gain valuable spare tire information.

AAA Roadside Service Via Satellite

You may remember that we announced last September that users of the iPhone 15 lineup, as well as iPhone 14 can now get access to Roadside Assistance via satellite utilizing AAA services. This service is incredibly useful in remote break-down locations where cell service and wi-fi is not readably available. Users receive clear guidance on how to stay connected to a satellite so they can message with a AAA agent to get important information about the status of the request.

This service is available to all iPhone 15 & 14 users in the US, regardless of whether they are a AAA Member. Non-members will be responsible for payment upon completion of the service. For instructions on how to request service via satellite from your iPhone, click the button below.

Emerging Auto Tech: What are OTA Updates?

Content provided by AAA’s Discount Partner: NAPA Auto Parts

How often does your cell phone or computer notify you that it needs an update? Even your smart TV likely alerts you to an impending update that needs installed. With the high-tech nature of today’s vehicles, it should come as no shock certain onboard systems can benefit from occasional updates.

An increasing number of vehicles are sold with the ability to communicate with an automobile manufacturer via cellular data. Onboard computers can receive updates to the newest software without the owner having to visit a dealership service center. Let’s take a look at OTA updates, what they do, why they are beneficial and what are the possible drawbacks of this emerging technology.

What is an OTA Update?

OTA stands for “Over The Air.” For an OTA update, the manufacturer sends a software update to the vehicle via a wireless network, usually the cellular phone network, but some can work over Wi-Fi. Over-the-air updates allow automakers to continually improve their products, even after they roll off the dealer lot. Manufacturers decide which systems are available for OTA updates, while in some cases almost the entire vehicle’s onboard computers are updated.

In the past, manufacturers relied on recalls or technical service bulletins (TSB) to signal when onboard software needed an update. Performing an update meant scheduling an appointment with the dealership for service. The service then required connecting specialized diagnostic equipment to the vehicle (and possibly disassembling part of the vehicle to access a computer module). All this takes time and effort.

In 2012, Tesla was the first manufacturer to implement an automotive OTA update with its Model S firmware update. Since then, the practice is more and more common as car connectivity grows exponentially. Most automotive manufacturers now include some sort of vehicle connectivity as either a complimentary or subscription service, so the mobile networking equipment is already in place. An OTA update saves time and money for the manufacturers, the vehicle owner and even the dealership service center.

What does an OTA update do?

An OTA firmware update can do a lot of things. Most importantly, it can fix any software bugs identified since the vehicle was built. Manufacturers can optimize and improve software for better stability and response time. They may also develop security updates that need applied in the constant battle against hackers and car thieves. In some cases, new features might get added to an infotainment system or other connected system. The update may even improve performance or driving efficiency as automakers analyze data from connected services. In some cases, the manufacturer can even change the layout of the infotainment system in response to customer input.

An OTA update can even make changes dictated by a recall. Recently, Tesla announced a recall of more than 2,000,000 vehicles. Thanks to the built-in, over-the-air update system already in place, the recall was done without ever having to visit a dealership. As long as an issue is software related, this Tesla OTA update recall is handled quickly and conveniently. There’s lots of reasons why an OTA software update can benefit a vehicle owner.

How do you perform an OTA update?

The answer is that you, the owner, don’t. It is up to the manufacturer to create and implement an OTA update. If an OTA update needs done, a signal is sent to the vehicle from the manufacturer’s telematics network. Onboard the vehicle, the signal is verified as trusted, at which time the OTA update is downloaded. Once the download is complete, the file(s) are verified again and installed. The vehicle owner still has a bit of control over what updates are installed though as you can deny or defer some of them.

What can go wrong with an OTA update?

Automakers go to great lengths to make sure any updates pushed to their vehicles pass quality checks. But, just like any software update, sometimes there are hiccups. Recently, an update for Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks left owners with a dead battery. Some owners are reluctant to allow an OTA update if given the choice, which can slow down broader adoption of critical vehicle updates. However, these issues are rare. Most OTA updates happen with no problems at all, but a smooth update rarely gets attention.

While not a widely known problem yet, hackers could leverage the fact that vehicles have a data access point in the future. Just like your home computer, hackers are always probing for vulnerabilities that they can exploit for nefarious reasons. The biggest risk is if the battery is disconnected while an update is getting applied, just like how your computer tells you to not turn off the power while it performs an update. Most people don’t go around randomly disconnecting their battery, so the risk is low.

In some cases, there is an issue with the cellular network on which an OTA update depends. If the vehicle is in an area where cell phone coverage is poor, the likelihood of it receiving an update is low. This means that the owner would need to drive to an area with better cellular reception so that the vehicle can download the update.

The future is connected

OTA updates are here to stay, especially because automakers are working to monetize the technology. Tesla already offers an update that makes your Model Y accelerate faster. Cadillac is offering a similar performance boost for its Lyriq EV that adds 74-lb./ft. of torque, which should equate to faster acceleration times. It isn’t hard to imagine a world where infotainment upgrades or even heated seats are now sold a-la-carte from a manufacturers’ phone app and “installed” via an OTA update. Kia is already planning to allow owners to buy extras via their Kia Connect store that allow for customizing vehicle experience to the driver.

Today, it seems like automotive technology is moving at warp speed. There is no doubt that cars, trucks and SUVs are moving towards a more connected future.

Saving Time & Money: AAA Battery Service

AAA is one of the most trusted names in roadside assistance. We recognize the frustration and inconvenience that dead batteries can bring, which is why we offer Mobile Battery Service as a convenient and efficient solution. Here’s why it makes sense:

1. On-the-Spot Assistance: With AAA’s Mobile Battery Service, a trained Battery Service Technician comes to you, wherever you are, to diagnose and resolve battery-related issues. Whether you’re at home, work, or stuck on the side of the road, help is just a phone call away.

2. Professional Expertise: AAA’s Battery Service Technicians are experienced professionals equipped with the knowledge and tools to assess, test, and replace batteries as needed. Their expertise ensures that you get back on the road quickly and safely.3. Time Savings: Calling AAA for a mobile battery service eliminates the need to wait for a tow truck or rely on the availability of a friend or family member to assist you. This translates to minimal downtime and the ability to continue with your plans without major disruptions.

3. Time Savings: Calling AAA for a mobile battery service eliminates the need to wait for a tow truck or rely on the availability of a friend or family member to assist you. This translates to minimal downtime and the ability to continue with your plans without major disruptions.

4. Cost-Effective: Opting for AAA’s Mobile Battery Service can save you money compared to traditional solutions. You’ll avoid potential towing fees and the inconvenience of having your vehicle towed to a repair shop. Plus, AAA offers competitive pricing on batteries and services.

5. Convenience: AAA’s Mobile Battery Service is available 24/7, meaning you can get assistance whenever you need it – even in the middle of the night or during holidays. This round-the-clock availability provides peace of mind and ensures you’re never stranded for long.

The Disappearing Spare Tire

Getting a flat tire is always an unexpected challenge, but if a current trend continues you may face another surprise the next time a flat tire strands you at the roadside. AAA research found that over the last dozen years automakers have been eliminating spare tires from their vehicles. Today, approximately 30 percent of new cars come without a spare and it is estimated there are more than 30 million cars on the road that lack a spare.

The main reason manufacturers are removing spare tires is tough new government fuel economy standards. A spare tire, vehicle jack and related tools can weigh 30 pounds or more. While this might not seem like much, getting rid of the weight provides a small but measurable increase in fuel economy and automakers like because it saves them money in the process. Removing the spare can also free up space for cargo and passengers. Additionally, automakers say the tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) on newer cars reduce the likelihood of being stranded by the roadside with a flat tire – although AAA road service numbers do not bear this out.
What should you do?

First, determine whether your car has a spare tire. Most cars without them are equipped with either run-flat tires or a tire sealant/inflator kit. See your owner’s manual for more information. Run-flat tires can be driven at reduced speeds for limited distances without air pressure. Tire sealant/inflator kits can temporarily repair small punctures, but are ineffective for larger leaks or tire sidewall damage.

If a run-flat tire loses air pressure, or a conventional flat tire is fixed with sealant/inflator kit, immediately take the car to a quality tire repair facility, such as a AAA Approved Auto Repair shop, as soon as possible for a permanent tire repair. If you used a sealant/inflator kit, you should also replace that, which can cost up to $300 for certain vehicles. Some sealants have expiration dates and require replacement every four to eight years whether they are used or not.

Spare tires are optional on many cars, and AAA recommends the additional investment when buying a new vehicle. The cost of a spare tire may be less than that of replacing a sealant/inflator kit, and it will help ensure your mobility regardless of the reason for a flat. If your current car lacks a spare, auto dealers and aftermarket tire retailers sell spare tires and the related tools for vehicles that originally came with a sealant/inflator kit. The cost typically ranges from $300 to $600 depending on the vehicle.

Whatever you do, do not get caught with a flat tire, no spare, no run-flat tires, no sealant/inflator kit and no plan for what to do next. To minimize roadside frustration and delays, review the flat tire procedures for your car today. If you are among those drivers who would rather let someone else deal with a flat, make sure you have your AAA membership card with you at all times.

Good car maintenance can help reduce the likelihood of getting a flat. Keep your tires properly inflated and have them periodically rotated by an auto repair shop to equalize wear and extend tire life. Replace your tires promptly when they become worn; the less tread a tire has the more vulnerable it is to suffering a puncture.
Finding quality auto repair

AAA recommends that you plan ahead for vehicle service by finding an auto repair shop and technician you can trust before you need them. AAA.com/AutoRepair provides information on nearly 7,000 Approved Auto Repair facilities that have met AAA’s high standards for appearance, technician training and certification, insurance coverage and customer satisfaction. AAA regularly inspects every Approved Auto Repair facility and surveys their customers to ensure ongoing performance. In addition, AAA members receive special benefits that include auto repair discounts, an extended 24-month/24,000-mile parts and labor warranty, and AAA assistance in resolving repair-related issues.