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VW over-the-air-software updates explained

Regular software updates aren’t limited to your smartphone and laptop – nowadays, some cars can be updated wirelessly with so-called ‘over-the-air’ patches and upgrades.

One of the latest car makers to embrace over-the-air updates is Volkswagen, which promises to roll-out this wireless upgrade ability across its family of ID electric cars. Carry on reading for our full guide on everything you need to know about Volkswagen’s over-the-air software functionality.

What are over-the-air updates?

Put simply, over-the-air updates are software upgrades for your car that you can download and install wirelessly – just as you would for an update for your phone. In the case of the Volkswagen ID3 and Volkswagen ID4, this is done using the built-in SIM card – the same card that allows your car to get real-time traffic updates on the sat-nav.

The biggest advantage of over-the-air updates is that you don’t need to take your car back to a dealership to have the latest software installed.

What will over-the-air updates change on my Volkswagen?

There’s no word yet on what VW will update first. However, the car maker says this wireless functionality means it can tweak and optimise the software underpinning the VW’s numerous electrical systems. Put simply, it can add extra features and functionality over time, which could improve how quickly you can recharge your car and how far you can drive between charges.

How regular will Volkswagen’s over-the-air software updates be?

Volkswagen is aiming to launch a new major over-the-air update for its newest electric cars every three months. The first of these updates will be rolled out before autumn 2021, and will be available for its ID3 and ID4 models.

Will over-the-air updates be mandatory?

You won’t be forced to update your car wirelessly, so you can keep your Volkswagen ID3 or ID4 with the same software spec it came with when you first got it. However, Volkswagen does recommend you download and install the updates when they’re made available.

If you choose not to update your car’s software, you may miss out on updates that could potentially improve its range and infotainment features.

How do I know if my Volkswagen can receive over-the-air updates?

If you place an order for a brand-new VW ID3 and ID4 now, it should come out of the box with over-the-air functionality. As of 22 February 2021, every ID3 and ID4 that rolls off the production line will come with all of the software needed to allow over-the-air updates.

However, if your VW ID3 and ID4 was built before that date, it will likely be using an older version of VW’s software, which means your car won’t be able to receive wireless updates. To find out if this is the case, you’ll need to contact a Volkswagen dealer to find out whether your car has the required software. For reference, if the car’s software is ‘Version 2.1’ or better, you have an ID3 or ID4 that can download and install over-the-air updates.

If your VW ID3 or ID4 is using an earlier version of this software, the only way to have over-the-air functionality added to your car is by booking an appointment at a Volkswagen dealer, so they can install the most up-to-date software that’s available.

The work will be carried out free of charge, but do bear in mind it won’t be a quick job. Volkswagen says the entire update will take around seven hours to complete, so your car may need to spend a couple of days at the dealer before it’s ready to collect with the latest software configured.