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Edmunds: The pros and cons of software running your car

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Edmunds: The pros and cons of software running your car

Software was a big theme for automakers attending CES 2023 in January. BMW, Stellantis, Volkswagen and a joint venture between Honda and Sony showed off upcoming or concept vehicles that are significantly reliant on computers and code. The takeaway was clear: More and more vehicles will be run top to bottom by software, not hardware. In some cases, the future is already here.

What will it be like for shoppers when vehicles are dominated by bits and bytes instead of gears and gaskets? Edmunds’ experts break down what’s in store.

SOFTWARE-DEFINED VEHICLES

The phrase “software-defined vehicle” is an industry term used to clarify the difference between a traditional car that is enhanced by technology and one that is run by technology.

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While cars of the past 20 years have gained touchscreens and have plenty of engines- and safety-related computing power, those software features are largely stuck in time once the car rolls off the assembly line. The future holds that nearly every vehicle feature will be controlled by software, which offers the potential to improve features over time.

Another key difference is updatability. Consider the smartphone. Their manufacturers seamlessly update their software on a regular basis to fix bugs and breaches and add functionality. Software-defined vehicles work similarly. They have high-speed Wi-Fi and cellular connections that automakers use to send out software updates via the cloud to their vehicles. There’s no need for owners to bring their vehicles to a dealership or service centre.

A NEW DAY AND A NEW FEATURE FOR YOUR CAR

Tesla is a pioneer in adding software-based features to its vehicles. Over the years it has introduced improvements to the touchscreen interfaces and added new features such as video games. It’s even issued updates that enhance vehicle performance. Startup EV brands Lucid and Rivian are following suit by employing over-the-air updates to give their vehicles new features and functions and issue bug fixes.

The software also allows for the introduction of features that wouldn’t have been possible in the past. Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury arm, is using facial recognition and fingerprint scanning with its new all-electric GV60 crossover. The physical key is required to set up both functions, but after that, the owner can basically operate the car as easily as a smartphone.

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Established companies are jumping in as well. Last summer, Ford used software to enable its BlueCruise hands-free driving system in tens of thousands of F-150s and Mustang Mach-Es. The vehicles had the hardware for the system already installed; the over-the-air update made it complete. It applied to the cars wirelessly, without the need for a dealer visit.

Maintenance is another potential advantage. These highly digital vehicles can monitor preventive and predictive maintenance and even diagnose problems from afar. It takes the guesswork out of what could go wrong and what needs to be adjusted without a visit to a mechanic shop or dealership.

THE DOWNSIDE OF THIS NEW TECH

Software allows new features that wouldn’t have been possible in the past. But sometimes these features aren’t so great in practice. Tesla and Rivian, for example, use touchscreen-based controls to direct the flow of the cabin’s air vents. It seems neat in theory but turns out to be a finicky and distracting process in real-world driving. Old-school air vents that you adjust by hand just work better.

Software crashes and glitches are also problematic. Issues that PC users are all too familiar with cane crop up in cars. It might be a touchscreen that goes blank and is inoperable while the driving, glitchy operation of certain controls, or advanced driver assist features that aren’t as fully vetted as they should be before being added to vehicles.

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The risks of software crashes and privacy breaches are real issues. It’s not outside the realm of possibility for someone with malicious intentions to take over the operation of a car and cause damage. Also, some experts are both applauding the technology and advising caution as it relates to personal data privacy: the more data collected from drivers, the more potential for hacking.

EDMUNDS SAYS:

The software will continue to evolve to change the vehicle ownership experience. Test-driving different new vehicles offer a sense of how much digital functionality you prefer. You might enjoy the opportunity for a quick fix or update via Wi-Fi. But technology-averse shoppers will likely prefer a vehicle with a more traditional design, which might include buying used.

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ByteDance confirms layoff plan at its Indonesian unit

ByteDance confirms layoff plan at its Indonesian unit

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ByteDance confirms layoff plan at its Indonesian unit

China’s ByteDance will lay off staff at its Indonesian unit following a deal where it bought a local e-commerce firm and combined it with its TikTok operation, a spokesperson said on Friday.

ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, did not say how many employees would be affected. Bloomberg had earlier reported there would be 450 jobs cut.

In January ByteDance completed a deal to buy a majority stake in Tokopedia, an Indonesian e-commerce firm, from the GoTo group.

ByteDance spokesperson Nuraini Razak told Reuters in a statement the company would “make necessary adjustments” as a result of the combination of TikTok and Tokopedia.

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“We identified areas to strengthen our organisation and better align our teams with company goals,” she said, adding the company would “aim to support employees throughout this transition”.

ByteDance had its own e-commerce operation in Indonesia via its TikTok app, but that was banned under an Indonesian rule that social media applications could not operate as an e-commerce platform.

Tokopedia is one of the leading e-commerce platforms in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

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Indonesia minister threatens to shut down X over adult content

Indonesia minister threatens to shut down X over adult content

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Indonesia minister threatens to shut down X over adult content

Indonesia is prepared to shut down social media platform X if it does not comply with a regulation barring adult content, the country’s communications minister said on Friday. Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, has strict rules that ban the sharing online of content deemed obscene.

Minister Budi Arie Setiadi told Reuters he had sent a warning letter to X related to this matter.

“We will certainly shut its services down,” he said, pointing to Indonesia’s electronic information and transaction (ITE) law that can carry a six-year jail sentence if someone spreads pornographic content.

His comments in an interview come after the social media platform recently updated its policies to permit consensually produced adult content.

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X, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, has not responded to Indonesia’s warning letter, Budi said, adding the government would send more letters before deciding on a potential closure.

X, formerly known as Twitter, did not immediately respond to a request by Reuters for comment.

Indonesians are big users of social media and X has 24.85 million users in the country, according to data gathering business Statista.

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Japan watchdog recommends action on MUFG units over sharing of client data

Japan watchdog recommends action on MUFG units over sharing of client data

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Japan's securities watchdog recommended on Friday that the banking and securities units of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group opens new tab (MUFG) be penalised for what it said was unauthorised sharing of client information. The Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) made the recommendation to the banking regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), which hands out such punishments in Japan. The recommendation, which was widely expected, followed the SESC's investigation into MUFG's banking arm, MUFG Bank, and its two brokerage ventures with Morgan Stanley (MS.N), opens new tab. The investigation found that confidential client information had been shared between MUFG Bank and one of the two securities firms on at least 26 occasions between 2020 and 2023. MUFG Bank also illegally offered preferential lending rates to clients that did business with the group's two securities brokerages, the SESC said. Japan's "firewall" regulations prohibit banks and securities companies in the same group from sharing customer data with one another without the customer's consent. The investigation found no evidence of insider trading, but monitoring and internal controls were lacking, the SESC said. MUFG group companies will make every effort to strengthen control systems in light of the recommendation and will take measures to prevent recurrence, the parent company said in a statement. The two brokerages were established in 2010, two years after MUFG invested in Morgan Stanley at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. MUFG owned around 23% of Morgan Stanley as of March 2024.

Japan’s securities watchdog recommended on Friday that the banking and securities units of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group  opens new tab (MUFG) be penalised for what it said was unauthorised sharing of client information.

The Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) made the recommendation to the banking regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), which hands out such punishments in Japan.

The recommendation, which was widely expected, followed the SESC’s investigation into MUFG’s banking arm, MUFG Bank, and its two brokerage ventures with Morgan Stanley (MS.N), opens new tab.

The investigation found that confidential client information had been shared between MUFG Bank and one of the two securities firms on at least 26 occasions between 2020 and 2023.

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MUFG Bank also illegally offered preferential lending rates to clients that did business with the group’s two securities brokerages, the SESC said.

Japan’s “firewall” regulations prohibit banks and securities companies in the same group from sharing customer data with one another without the customer’s consent.

The investigation found no evidence of insider trading, but monitoring and internal controls were lacking, the SESC said.

MUFG group companies will make every effort to strengthen control systems in light of the recommendation and will take measures to prevent recurrence, the parent company said in a statement.

The two brokerages were established in 2010, two years after MUFG invested in Morgan Stanley at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008. MUFG owned around 23% of Morgan Stanley as of March 2024.

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