The shift has old-school metal benders dipping into unfamiliar territory that long was the domain of high-tech companies. But like Toyota, automakers increasingly see the importance of bringing those programming skills in house, so they won’t play second fiddle to outside forces.
Tesla’s expertise in innovative software has made it a darling of Wall Street investors.
Doubt the impact? The Model S became the first electric vehicle to crack the 400-mile-range milestone this year, thanks to a software update. Tesla can tweak everything from performance to handling and ride comfort through over-the-air updates, keeping cars fresh between redesigns.
Other high-tech automotive interlopers, such as Uber Technologies Inc. or Alphabet Inc.’s well-established Waymo unit, stake their entire business model on their software prowess.
The advent of advanced safety systems and automated driving is spurring the transformation. But so is surging demand for on-the-go connectivity needed for infotainment and e-commerce.