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Your Next Car May Anticipate Your Needs—and Let You Add Features on the Fly


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Artist's image of a future vehicle.

Automakers like General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz are shifting from banging metal to software-centered designs, with which they hope to make money even after they have sold you the car.

Credit: Brian Stauffer

The next time you buy a car and fret about whether or not to splurge on that snazzy new feature, fear not: Chances are you'll be able to download it later.

In the past, the ordeal of deciding which features you could afford and which you could live without may have been painful and time-consuming, mainly because you would be stuck with whatever suite of options you chose until the time came to buy another car.

Those days are quickly fading as cars morph from vehicles to get around town to artificial intelligence-enabled, smartphone-like connected devices packed with software for work and play. In the near future, cars won't only be able to constantly update and adapt to situations months and years after the time of purchase, they will be able to use AI to anticipate the needs of drivers and passengers and tailor their offerings accordingly. This also has the potential to create a new business model for auto makers, with car owners paying on-demand fees or monthly subscriptions to get access to new features.

These could include additional horsepower from the electric motor that you might only need on a road trip through mountainous terrain. Or a subscription for heating the steering wheel and seats during the winter.

From The Wall Street Journal
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