BMW’s Painless Over-the-Air Update

Our BMW 530i wanted to do an over-the-air update. Did we dare?

Dan Carney, Senior Editor

April 16, 2024

2 Min Read
The 2024 BMW 530i.
The 2024 BMW 530i.BMW

At a Glance

  • Takes 20 minutes
  • Upgraded the car's driver assistance system

The day after the 2024 BMW 530i arrived, the car’s computer prompted me to say that it needed to do an over-the-air update. The internet is full of horror stories of modern cars that stopped working after such updates. The car promised it would only take 20 minutes.

The risk of getting stranded meant that when I arrived at my destination, I didn’t dare let it update then, even though I’d be there for more than long enough. But when I got home, the prompt reappeared, nudging me to do the update. Did I dare?

It seemed worth the risk to see what would happen, so I clicked on the approval button, but first I made sure the driver’s door was open so I could get out. Just in case.

I returned to the BMW about half an hour later to find that the update was complete and everything was in working order. The car provided a report on the content of the update. It provided new software to upgrade the 530’s driver assistance systems, for greater safety. This was welcome, though the computer provided no detail on how, exactly, the systems were reprogrammed.
It also upgraded the cooling of the brake control system, though, again, there was no detail provided on how software accomplished this worthwhile goal. The 530’s exterior lighting got some functional changes too.

Related:Driving the Remarkably Unremarkable BMW iX5 Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle


Other than that, the updates seemed to be mostly documentation, with changes to the digital owner’s manual, another lawyer-prescribed disclaimer, and information for hybrid-electric models that didn’t apply to this 530.

Carmakers have different philosophies regarding the frequency of OTA updates, so I put in a call to the ever-helpful Alexander Schmuck at BMW for some help. He reports that the company typically issues about three OTA updates a year for its vehicles, but there is no hard-and-fast schedule.

Stellantis, for comparison, issues monthly updates for its vehicles. When updates to our computers and mobile devices so often seem to wreak havoc, it is reassuring that BMW’s OTA update was as comfortable and effortless as the 530 itself. A few more such successes could even lead me to be confident enough to let it update when I’m away from home!

About the Author(s)

Dan Carney

Senior Editor, Design News

Dan’s coverage of the auto industry over three decades has taken him to the racetracks, automotive engineering centers, vehicle simulators, wind tunnels, and crash-test labs of the world.

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