Over-the-air updates for cars have been introduced by Elon Musk and Tesla as the main proponents. They are a part of the movement that started when the Tesla Model S initially went on sale, which advocates using cars as mobile computers. There are many positive aspects of connection. It enables automakers to update existing vehicles with new software, keeping them as technologically advanced as those leaving the factory right now. It largely eliminates the requirement for owners to schedule a visit with a nearby dealer to have a problem rectified or new software installed. OTA updates typically take place while the car is parked over night. What’s more practical than that?
This useful term is a sneaky little devil. We now willingly give our personal information to advertisers, hackers, and government snoops in the name of ease. Our phones follow us everywhere we go, and now even our vehicles do. That might soon become a problem when maniacal, frothing-at-the-mouth vagina police follow American women of childbearing age to see if they are traveling to a nearby state for personal healthcare services.
Maybe you don’t care about women’s rights. Even though the state where the event is being held classifies attending rallies in opposition to oil pipelines as a felony punishable by up to 40 years in prison in prison time, you might still want to go. To confirm your presence, it is possible to get your car to inform on you. It might serve as the key witness for the prosecution in your case. You don’t find that problematic, do you?
SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES’ GROWTH There is still another, far darker aspect of connectivity. The decision by manufacturers is that although customers may own the wheels, seats, and windows of their brand-new cars, they do not own the computer software that controls them. They have discovered that restricting users’ access to software functions can yield vast sums of money.
The most recent instance might seem unimportant, yet it is a sign of things to come. Customers in South Korea can use a subscription to turn on their heated seats, heated steering wheel, and other options. You might be thinking, “Wait, weren’t those automobiles already designed with heated seats and a heated steering wheel?” They are, indeed. However, if you reside in South Korea and wish to utilize them, you will need to pay in full and again. These are the features and associated costs, according to Jalopnik .
Heated seats are available for $18 per month, $176 per year, $283 per three years, or $406 for lifetime access. $10 per month for a heated steering wheel, $161 for three years, or $222 for lifetime access. Automatic high lights are available for $8 per month, $84 per year, $122 per year, or $183 per year of unlimited use. A lifetime subscription to Apple CarPlay will cost $304. Engine noises were played on the stereo for $137. BMW got in touch with them following the publication of the Jalopnik piece to reassure them that they do not currently have any plans to pursue a similar subscription model in the US. It is a glimpse of the steady descent into a money-grab dystopia where your car’s features are hidden behind software that you must pay to activate, warns Jalopnik.
Although to most of us this may seem like nickel and dime things, the amounts involved are enormous. Stellantis reportedly informed investors at a Software Day event last year that it expects to earn up to $22.5 billion from the sale of software subscriptions, according to CNBC . That is consistent with the predictions made by other automakers. I’ve been racking my brain for the perfect word to describe this circumstance, and I’ve come to the conclusion that rapacious is about as good a fit as one could hope for.
THE HACKERS STRIKE BACK Motherboard , , a part of Vice, reveals the emergence of a community of hackers who will, in exchange for payment, unlock software-restricted functions or remove restrictions that automakers may have put in place. We constantly pay attention to what our clients want and work to provide it. In an email to Motherboard, Paul Smith, a content marketing specialist at Bimmer Tech, a BMW coding company, said, “We can look at offering it as long as BMW makes it easy to activate heated seats.”
BMW code companies typically provide customers two options for getting new features for their cars. The business has two coding options: either they physically visit the customer’s home and code the vehicle there, or they remotely access the customer’s BMW. According to Motherboard, some businesses exclusively provide remote coding in the United States and Canada, while others do so globally.
The features that coders provide include enabling video functions while driving, removing the legal disclaimer from the iDrive BMW entertainment and communications system on startup, automatically unlocking the doors after pressing the Stop Button, closing the car’s windows via the key fob, setting the windows to open with the key fob but leaving the sunroof open, and automatic heaving.
Many requests for simple convenience features, such as the ability to open and close windows with the key fob, were made when I first started implementing this roughly seven years ago, a coder who preferred to remain anonymous told Motherboard. The BMW software suite might be used to accomplish those. However, things have altered a little bit recently as a result of developers hacking cars’ firmware, creating phony certificates to activate paid services, or even developing hardware to activate hidden functions like BMW’s driver assistance system.
Many of those hacks can be overridden by manufacturers with over-the-air upgrades, so the hackers now provide services to restore earlier hacks after they are deleted. Although the conflict is intensifying, businesses ultimately have access to greater resources. In any case, buyers must pay for the things they choose. One hacker advised users to just pay the monthly price and get rid of heated seats if they needed them that badly.
USED CAR CONFUSION When one of its cars is traded in or sold, software upgrades are deactivated by Tesla, setting the trend. Its batteries have some software restrictions. If a driver purchases a capacity upgrade, such upgrade is lost when the car is sold. For Tesla’s lauded Full Self Driving package, the same holds true. It can only be unlocked for the duration that you possess the car, and you must spend $12,000 to do so. Any subsequent owner can pay the charge once more, but what if you decide to donate the automobile to a kid or member of your family instead?
It’s become traditional for kids to drive their parents’ old car to college. After that, what happens to that FSD software? You can likely say goodbye to FSD and your $12,000 if the car is registered in someone else’s name, even if that person is the original owner’s child. You never really purchased FSD. When you sold the car, the software license you had acquired became invalid. If you missed it when you joined up for FSD, it is your fault. It is right there on page 137 in the fine print.
THE DISAPPEARING BATTERY CAPACITY CASE Jason Hughes is well known to a lot of Tesla enthusiasts. He is a white hat hacker who has been obsessed with Tesla ever since the first vehicles left the Fremont assembly line. He recently informed Auto Evolution about a specific 2013 Model S that caught his eye. The 60 kWh battery that came with the car when it left the manufacturer was later changed as part of the warranty. The new battery increased the car’s range by 80 miles and was a 90 kWh unit. Sweet! Even the 60 emblem on the trunk lid was removed and replaced with a 90 insignia by the technicians at the Tesla service center.
The vehicle was then sold. additionally sold. When the MCU flash drive was recalled, the third owner was affected. A kind technician discovered the battery had been upgraded when the car was brought in for servicing with the 90 designation on the trunk lid that Tesla service personnel had placed there. He then set a software lock, reducing the battery’s capacity to 60 kWh. The owner was informed that the software lock could be removed for a $4,500 cost. Hughes claims that the reason he made this case public was because he detests seeing Tesla stumble with such foolishness.
According to Tesla, the free basic connectivity that has been offered since the launch of the first Model S will no longer be offered to vehicles purchased after July 20, 2022. Currently, the free service expires after 8 years. After that, users will need to subscribe in order to continue using the basic connectivity, which includes the navigational software.
THE CONCLUSION The notion of really purchasing an automobile is becoming outdated. You purchase a chassis, repay a loan on it, pay taxes and insurance on it, and are responsible for maintaining it when it breaks. However, you only receive a license to utilize the operating system’s software. As long as you pay certain fees and don’t break any of the terms of the license, which is written in dense, incomprehensible legalese that even most lawyers couldn’t understand, the manufacturer retains ownership of the program and permits you to use it.
In America, a new car now costs more than $48,000 on average. You may believe that would be sufficient to appease the automakers, but it isn’t. They have discovered a way to sell you a car while charging you extra for benefits you believed you were already receiving. Is there a ruse involved? Not quite, but close enough. While everyone is happy that over-the-air upgrades protect us from rapacious dealer service departments, we should be aware that this particular technological advancement has a sting in the tail. ‘Beware the buyer’.
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