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Connectivity is one of the four features that will define the 21st-century automobile. The pundits promise us that the car of the future will be autonomous, connected, electric and shared. Everything that’s a thing these days has an acronym, and some are using “ACES” to describe this tetra-trend. But what exactly do we mean when we say “connected?”
Cars have been connected to the outside world almost since the beginning—the first car radio seems to have been installed in 1924. Since then, satellite radio, navigation systems, Bluetooth telephone integration and smartphone controllers such as CarPlay and Android Auto have all taken their places on the dashboard (physical or virtual).
As every Tesla owner or fan knows, the innovative automaker has taken connectivity to an entirely new level. Not only do Tesla’s vehicles elegantly implement all of today’s expected driver assistance and entertainment, but they have an important feature that no other auto brand can match: over-the-air software updates. One of the joys of Tesla ownership is getting into your car and realizing that an upgrade, or a handy new feature, has been enabled while you slept.
The only other automaker that offers a form of two-way connectivity is GM—its OnStar system, which enables remote diagnostics and emergency road services, has been around since 1996. VW says it will implement OTA updates for its upcoming ID family of EVs, and Ford says it will offer over-the-air update capability on its Mustang Mach-E, and will offer it on “most redesigned vehicles in the US” starting this year.
At the moment however, Tesla’s vehicles are unquestionably the most connected on the road. So, it was no surprise that, when PC Magazine added a new section on vehicle connectivity to its annual Readers’ Choice survey, Tesla topped the rankings. The mag’s editors did seem a bit surprised at “the consistently incredible ratings the EVs got for connectivity features and overall as vehicles.”
PCMag defines connectivity in the broadest possible sense, to include a vehicle’s infotainment system, navigation, wireless support and dashboard interface. Even a backup camera (standard on all new vehicles in the US since 2018) is considered a connectivity feature. Tesla’s large screen assured a win in this category: 9.8 out of a possible 10. Mercedes-Benz came in second with a 9.6.
PCMag’s readers gave Tesla a 9.6 for GPS navigation (the #1 spot); 9.4 for Bluetooth implementation (tied for #1 with GMC); and a 9.3 for the overall system interface.
Above: Yes, this prior software update is already 'old' news, but it still showcases an example of how Tesla's interface is always advancing (YouTube: Tesla)
Tesla topped the rankings overall, with a 9.6 as a car and a 9.5 for connectivity.
For obvious reasons, PCMag’s survey included no questions about over-the-air updates. Maybe next year it will.