30 votes

Tesla remotely disables Autopilot on used Model S after it was sold

33 comments

  1. [27]
    tempestoftruth
    Link
    Seems like the kind of issue consumers will always come up against when it comes to corporations and proprietary software. The work that's being put into self-driving cars should be made...

    Seems like the kind of issue consumers will always come up against when it comes to corporations and proprietary software. The work that's being put into self-driving cars should be made open-source, not just because it would make the process safer and more transparent, but also because it would prevent ridiculous abuses like this one, where you can't even sell a product you purchased because technically the company still owns the software inside it and gets to decide who uses it. People should be able to own the things they purchase outright.

    Reminds me of this headline from a while back: https://www.wired.com/2015/04/dmca-ownership-john-deere/

    28 votes
    1. AugustusFerdinand
      Link Parent
      In this particular instance it's not so cut and dry as "ridiculous abuses" and who owns the software. People have sold used Teslas with autopilot without issue. This will end up being a suit...

      In this particular instance it's not so cut and dry as "ridiculous abuses" and who owns the software. People have sold used Teslas with autopilot without issue.

      This will end up being a suit against Tesla, that I don't see them winning, as the Monroney sticker (the sticker on the window of a new car that lists the features, options, and prices) is a legal document, what is listed on the sticker is what has to be included with the vehicle, and on that sticker is the autopilot feature. In this case while the feature was on the sticker, the option wasn't actually paid for and an audit of the cars revealed this as there was a small batch of cars that got out the door with autopilot enabled without having been purchased.

      15 votes
    2. [5]
      HanakoIsBestGirl
      Link Parent
      Not just open-source. (Although I would rather free software). The car also needs a way to accept code that is not blessed by Tesla (perhaps a USB port hidden away inside?). The code can all be...

      Not just open-source. (Although I would rather free software). The car also needs a way to accept code that is not blessed by Tesla (perhaps a USB port hidden away inside?). The code can all be open source or free software, but if there is no way to put it on the car yourself, then it isnt much help.

      11 votes
      1. [4]
        ali
        Link Parent
        I agree with open sourcing this kind of software, but letting people flash their own software on their car sounds like a recipe for disaster to me and I don’t think it’s a good idea. There’s just...

        I agree with open sourcing this kind of software, but letting people flash their own software on their car sounds like a recipe for disaster to me and I don’t think it’s a good idea.
        There’s just so many ways in which this could go wrong - from literally bricking your car to just creating alternatives that are riddled with bugs because the pull request didn’t take a precision error into account.

        27 votes
        1. teaearlgraycold
          Link Parent
          You're allowed to modify your car physically, you just need to get it re-certified as street legal.

          You're allowed to modify your car physically, you just need to get it re-certified as street legal.

          4 votes
        2. [2]
          HanakoIsBestGirl
          Link Parent
          I understand that there are safety issues with allowing people to put custom software on their car. But if you cannot put your own software on the car, then how can you verify that the software...

          I understand that there are safety issues with allowing people to put custom software on their car. But if you cannot put your own software on the car, then how can you verify that the software they say is on the car is actually what they put on the car. If the car accepted custom firmware, then you could just flash it yourself and then you would know what the car was running.

          What if Tesla implemented malicious functionality like this and also open sourced it. Without a way to run custom software, you would be unable to remove that functionality even though you have the source code, because you would be unable to actually upload modified code to the car.

          2 votes
          1. moocow1452
            Link Parent
            If you install software on your car that makes it a danger to yourself or others, that would be similar to modifying your car so that it was no longer "street legal." Either third party code would...

            If you install software on your car that makes it a danger to yourself or others, that would be similar to modifying your car so that it was no longer "street legal." Either third party code would need to be certified, or access to roads would need to be restricted, or something would need to be into place to counter malicious code and intentions.

            6 votes
    3. [20]
      onyxleopard
      Link Parent
      Agreed, but in the present, I don't think anyone has an expectation that a consumer buying, say, a second-hand laptop with proprietary software on it, would be able to transfer ownership of all...

      Seems like the kind of issue consumers will always come up against when it comes to corporations and proprietary software.

      Agreed, but in the present, I don't think anyone has an expectation that a consumer buying, say, a second-hand laptop with proprietary software on it, would be able to transfer ownership of all that software from the first owner. Why should we have a different expectation for a car than a laptop?

      2 votes
      1. [3]
        JamesTeaKirk
        Link Parent
        I can see both sides of the argument. I would expect a refund if someone sold me an iPhone that was unable to run ios. But that's just the problem, this is a new kind of problem and comparing it...

        I can see both sides of the argument. I would expect a refund if someone sold me an iPhone that was unable to run ios. But that's just the problem, this is a new kind of problem and comparing it to other non-car products is probably unfair.

        5 votes
        1. [2]
          onyxleopard
          Link Parent
          I don't think that's quite analogous. It would be more like if someone had downloaded an app from the iOS App Store that runs on top of the OS, and then logged out of their iCloud account before...

          I would expect a refund if someone sold me an iPhone that was unable to run ios.

          I don't think that's quite analogous. It would be more like if someone had downloaded an app from the iOS App Store that runs on top of the OS, and then logged out of their iCloud account before selling it. The Tesla car was not inoperable—it still had the base software to operate. It just lost the software features that Tesla sells as an upgrade.

          Let's look at it another way. The whole idea of proprietary software is that an entity is not selling instances of the software, they are selling a license to use the software. If they were selling actual copies of the software, then the first person to buy a copy could just give additional copies away to anyone else for free. This kind of thing does happen, and sellers of proprietary software may implement various forms of DRM to try to mitigate this. What Tesla is doing is a form of DRM.

          The real issue here is the bait and switch that Tesla did by removing features after ownership was transferred. If Tesla was going to disable software features because the new owner was expected to pay for a license for them, then Tesla should have either removed the features at the time of ownership transfer, or should have given the owner the opportunity to purchase a license to use the features (or notified the dealer when the dealer received the car).

          5 votes
          1. Greg
            Link Parent
            The real question is do I have a right under the first sale doctrine to sell on that license to use the software? There have been instances where phones have been sold at a premium specifically...

            The real question is do I have a right under the first sale doctrine to sell on that license to use the software?

            There have been instances where phones have been sold at a premium specifically because they contain a specific no-longer-available app. Second hand game sales are big business. It's not unprecedented, and it's actually been fought in court from both sides several times.

            I'd expect to either sell the software along with the car that it runs on, or keep my right to use that software on my new car. If my new car isn't a Tesla, or is a model it isn't compatible with, then the only sensible option would be to sell it with the car.

            [Edit to add] In this specific case, the ownership transfer doesn't appear to be the reason that the software was removed. It wasn't supposed to be installed in the first place, and Tesla removed it when that showed up in an audit. The ownership transfer is relevant because it meant the buyer didn't know it wasn't supposed to be on the car (everybody looked, quite reasonably, at the active features rather than at any original spec document). If they'd bought new, they would have been aware that it wasn't listed on the spec.

            3 votes
      2. [2]
        Loire
        Link Parent
        Because a car is not software and until relatively recently contained virtually no software. There are different expectations for a vehicle and an app built by a century of different usage...

        Because a car is not software and until relatively recently contained virtually no software. There are different expectations for a vehicle and an app built by a century of different usage profiles. Even if we were to compare to software, people are correct to expect the full feature base for the car they are buying just like they expect all features of the laptop's OS to be included and not partitioned off for an extra price to be re-paid every time the laptop changes ownership.

        The software package was already paid for, why should that particular software be taken away and re-sold? Should Tesla be able to take away the drive train control and re-sell that for an extra cost? Air bag detection suite? Automatic transmission software? Would you be okay with all of those? If not why this one?

        4 votes
        1. onyxleopard
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          That's not true. Cars have had computer systems running everything from fuel injection to ABS for the last half century. The relatively new development is that some software is now being updated...

          Because a car is not software and until relatively recently contained virtually no software.

          That's not true. Cars have had computer systems running everything from fuel injection to ABS for the last half century. The relatively new development is that some software is now being updated more frequently (even OTA, as in this case).

          It used to be that the software in your car was intended to work, without modification, for the lifetime of the hardware. With more complex software for domains that, let's admit, are not entirely solved yet, like autonomous-driving, it seems maybe the expectation of having software be shipped with the hardware and never touched again, is flawed.

          The software package was already paid for, why should that particular software be taken away and re-sold?

          I'm not arguing that it should, but based on how intellectual property and software licensing actually works in the present world, it's up to the software licensor to choose how they sell those licenses. If they choose to say that every licensee must pay, and that they don't allow for reselling of their software licenses, then consumers would be expected to respect that in accordance with the law. But, in this case, the onus is on Tesla to not give their product out for free if they intended to charge for it, and also not piss off customers by giving something away for free, and then taking it away when they realize their mistake.

          4 votes
      3. [14]
        Algernon_Asimov
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I do. I expect this. If I buy something (not rent or lease or subscribe), I gain full ownership of it. It's mine. I paid for it. I can do with it what I want - including selling it to someone...

        I don't think anyone has an expectation that a consumer buying, say, a second-hand laptop with proprietary software on it, would be able to transfer ownership of all that software from the first owner.

        I do. I expect this. If I buy something (not rent or lease or subscribe), I gain full ownership of it. It's mine. I paid for it. I can do with it what I want - including selling it to someone else.

        It doesn't matter if it's proprietary software or not. I can re-sell my branded fridge, my branded washing machine, my branded bicycle. Just because software has a brand on it, that shouldn't prevent me from re-selling it.

        EDIT: Typo.

        4 votes
        1. [13]
          onyxleopard
          Link Parent
          I’m not sure what the laws are where you live, but selling software you don’t legally own might be illegal. If you’re happy to break the law, that’s fine. I’d rather just wipe out all the data on...

          I’m not sure what the laws are where you live, but selling software you don’t legally own might be illegal. If you’re happy to break the law, that’s fine. I’d rather just wipe out all the data on a laptop before reselling (which is what happened with the original Tesla scenario, they just added back the software upgrade by mistake).

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            Diff
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            From my POV it's really not the same thing here. The car was originally bought with both features. When you buy one of these features, it is bought for the car, not for you. Resold Teslas keep...

            From my POV it's really not the same thing here. The car was originally bought with both features.

            When you buy one of these features, it is bought for the car, not for you. Resold Teslas keep those features even when ownership changes hands.

            The only thing that makes this car different is that it was returned as defective to Tesla, who repaired it and resold it with both those features still intact. Then the dealer sold it on to the current owner, again with those features both intact and advertised. Then Tesla realized they meant to remove those features when they had it and retroactively pulled them, despite all sale documents advertising the feature. Software, hardware, the implementation doesn't really matter in this case.

            2 votes
            1. onyxleopard
              Link Parent
              That’s interesting if true. I haven’t heard that discussed and haven’t read the terms of this software (I don’t own a Tesla).

              When you buy one of these features, it is bought for the car, not for you.

              That’s interesting if true. I haven’t heard that discussed and haven’t read the terms of this software (I don’t own a Tesla).

          2. [10]
            Algernon_Asimov
            Link Parent
            If I buy something, it is legally mine. Otherwise, by definition, I haven't bought it. I might have rented it or leased it or subscribed to it - those are the circumstances under which I don't own...

            If I buy something, it is legally mine. Otherwise, by definition, I haven't bought it. I might have rented it or leased it or subscribed to it - those are the circumstances under which I don't own something. However, if I bought something, it's mine.

            For example, I bought the operating system on my computer (the one I'm using to type this comment). I paid a one-off purchase price, I acquired the installation disks and a customer key. It's mine. I bought it.

            If I want to sell this computer to someone, complete with the operating system, I can. It's all legally mine to do with as I please - which includes selling it to someone else.

            1. [9]
              onyxleopard
              Link Parent
              This gets into the fine-grained semantics of the word ‘buy’. If you ‘buy’ a BluRay disc, is the data on that disc legally owned by you? If you buy a television, is all the data that passes through...

              If I buy something, it is legally mine.

              This gets into the fine-grained semantics of the word ‘buy’. If you ‘buy’ a BluRay disc, is the data on that disc legally owned by you?

              If you buy a television, is all the data that passes through the frame buffer legally yours?

              If you buy a laptop, do you own the values of the bits in its long term storage? What about after modifying the bits? (The state of the laptop is constantly changing. Do you own all permutations of bits? What if some of those permutations are encumbered by IP claims?)

              I personally don’t think that the concept of ownership makes sense when applied to data. And I don’t think it has been solved legally (at least not universally). In the US, first-sale doctrine applies to some digital goods, but not others. I think your expectations may not align with the law in many jurisdictions, though.

              For example, I bought the operating system on my computer (the one I'm using to type this comment). I paid a one-off purchase price, I acquired the installation disks and a customer key. It's mine. I bought it.

              Did you read the EULA fully? You more than likely bought a license to use it. If you really owned the OS itself, you could legally make copies and sell the copies. (Of course, with any DRM scheme, one can likely find a way to illegally copy it and sell it or give it away for free, but you’re making a stronger claim, which I don’t believe is true, unless you live in a jurisdiction that is very peculiar.)

              1 vote
              1. [8]
                Algernon_Asimov
                Link Parent
                I own this copy of the data. I can sell the disc to you. When you buy the disc, you know you're getting the whole movie and noone is going to take it away from you. It's yours. Fine. I own the...

                If you ‘buy’ a BluRay disc, is the data on that disc legally owned by you?

                I own this copy of the data. I can sell the disc to you. When you buy the disc, you know you're getting the whole movie and noone is going to take it away from you. It's yours.

                You more than likely bought a license to use it.

                Fine. I own the license to use it. I can sell that license to you. You then own the license. Either way, Microsoft isn't going to uninstall the operating system from the computer after you buy it from me.

                1. [7]
                  onyxleopard
                  Link Parent
                  No, but they might revoke the license to use it. And, if the software has any means of ‘phoning home’ when an internet connection becomes available, there are plenty of softwares that will cease...

                  Either way, Microsoft isn't going to uninstall the operating system from the computer after you buy it from me.

                  No, but they might revoke the license to use it. And, if the software has any means of ‘phoning home’ when an internet connection becomes available, there are plenty of softwares that will cease to function with a revoked license. (This is similar, though not directly equivalent to Tesla reviving features with an OTA software update. They were effectively exercising their right to revoke the license to use the features. They can do this, even if someone pays for them, assuming the current owner is in violation of the license agreement.)

                  1 vote
                  1. [6]
                    Algernon_Asimov
                    Link Parent
                    On what basis? I bought it. It's mine, to keep, to use, to destroy, or to sell. That's a technical issue, not a legal or moral one. They could also send a team of goons to your house to physically...

                    No, but they might revoke the license to use it.

                    On what basis? I bought it. It's mine, to keep, to use, to destroy, or to sell.

                    And, if the software has any means of ‘phoning home’ when an internet connection becomes available, there are plenty of softwares that will cease to function with a revoked license.

                    That's a technical issue, not a legal or moral one. They could also send a team of goons to your house to physically steal the disc if they wanted to. That's not the point. The point is that sellers can not legally take back something that a buyer has purchased.

                    1 vote
                    1. [5]
                      onyxleopard
                      Link Parent
                      On the basis of the terms of the EULA (End User License Agreement) that they forced you to agree to before using the software?

                      On what basis?

                      On the basis of the terms of the EULA (End User License Agreement) that they forced you to agree to before using the software?

                      2 votes
                      1. [4]
                        Algernon_Asimov
                        Link Parent
                        You mean this EULA? (Warning: PDF link.) It does not say I can't sell the licence or software to someone else. In fact, that's how I acquired this software in the first place: I purchased it from...

                        You mean this EULA? (Warning: PDF link.)

                        8. SCOPE OF LICENSE. The software is licensed, not sold. [...] You may not

                        · work around any technical limitations in the software;

                        · reverse engineer, decompile or disassemble the software, except and only to the extent that applicable law expressly permits, despite this limitation;

                        · use components of the software to run applications not running on the software;

                        · make more copies of the software than specified in this agreement or allowed by applicable law, despite this limitation;

                        · publish the software for others to copy;

                        · rent, lease or lend the software; or

                        · use the software for commercial software hosting services.

                        It does not say I can't sell the licence or software to someone else.

                        In fact, that's how I acquired this software in the first place: I purchased it from someone who was not Microsoft.

                        1. [3]
                          onyxleopard
                          Link Parent
                          That’s one license. They’re not all the same. (Some are not transferable. I don’t even know how legally binding/enforceable they are anyway.) My point was merely that you don’t own your OS. You...

                          That’s one license. They’re not all the same. (Some are not transferable. I don’t even know how legally binding/enforceable they are anyway.) My point was merely that you don’t own your OS. You own a license to use it. Not sure why we’re still going on about this.

                          1. [2]
                            Algernon_Asimov
                            Link Parent
                            Because you're trying to convince me that "purchase" does not equal "ownership", and I don't believe you. The larger point is that, if someone buys something, they own it to the degree necessary...

                            Not sure why we’re still going on about this.

                            Because you're trying to convince me that "purchase" does not equal "ownership", and I don't believe you.

                            The larger point is that, if someone buys something, they own it to the degree necessary to re-sell it someone else later - and the manufacturer does not have the right to yank features out of the second-hand item, whether it's a car or a computer or a fridge.

                            1. onyxleopard
                              Link Parent
                              That is not true with softwares, generally, though. It depends on the terms of the license. You have to take it case-by-case. Here’s an example where the license agreement explicitly prohibits...

                              The larger point is that, if someone buys something, they own it to the degree necessary to re-sell it someone else later - and the manufacturer does not have the right to yank features out of the second-hand item, whether it's a car or a computer or a fridge.

                              That is not true with softwares, generally, though. It depends on the terms of the license. You have to take it case-by-case.

                              Here’s an example where the license agreement explicitly prohibits resale (specifically §2.1.1.e):

                              1.1 License Grant. Subject to and conditioned on Licensee’s continuous compliance with this Agreement and payment of the applicable fees, Autodesk grants Licensee a nonexclusive, nonsublicensable, nontransferable, limited license to Install and Access the Licensed Materials, in each case solely (a) in the Territory, (b) within the scope of the License Type and Permitted Number specified in the applicable License Identification, and (c) in accordance with the other terms of this Agreement. Various License Types are described in Exhibit B. In any case where the License Identification does not specify a License Type or Permitted Number, or there is no License Identification, the License Type will, by default, be the Evaluation License and the Permitted Number will, by default, be one (1).

                              1. License Limitations; Prohibitions

                              2.1 Limitations and Exclusions.
                              2.1.1 No License Granted; Unauthorized Activities. The parties acknowledge and agree that, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Agreement, no license is granted (whether expressly, by implication or otherwise) under this Agreement (and this Agreement expressly excludes any right) (a) to Excluded Materials, (b) to any Autodesk Materials that Licensee did not acquire lawfully or that Licensee acquired in violation of or in a manner inconsistent with this Agreement, (c) for Installation of or Access to the Licensed Materials beyond the applicable license term (whether a fixed term or Relationship Program period or term) or outside the scope of the applicable License Type or Permitted Number, (d) for Installation of the Licensed Materials on any Computer other than a Computer owned or leased, and controlled, by Licensee, unless otherwise authorized in writing by Autodesk, (e) to distribute, rent, loan, lease, sell, sublicense, transfer or otherwise provide all or any portion of the Autodesk Materials to any person or entity except as expressly set forth in this Agreement or as expressly authorized in writing by Autodesk, (f) to provide or make available any features or functionality of the Autodesk Materials to any person or entity (other than to and for Licensee itself for the purpose specified in the applicable License Type), whether or not over a network and whether or not on a hosted basis, (g) except as otherwise expressly provided with respect to a specific License Type, to Install or Access or allow the Installation of or Access to the Autodesk Materials over the Internet or other non-local network, including, without limitation, use in connection with a wide area network (WAN), virtual private network (VPN), virtualization, Web hosting, time-sharing, service bureau, software as a service, cloud or other service or technology, (h) to remove, alter or obscure any proprietary notices, labels or marks in the Autodesk Materials, (i) to decompile, disassemble or otherwise reverse engineer the Autodesk Materials, or (j) to translate, adapt, arrange, or create derivative works based on, or otherwise modify the Autodesk Materials for any purpose.

                              1 vote
  2. Autoxidation
    Link
    Jalopnik has some additional details this article does not. Typically, if a car is sold privately that paid for FSD or EAP, then it remains with the vehicle. This car was returned to Tesla via...

    Jalopnik has some additional details this article does not. Typically, if a car is sold privately that paid for FSD or EAP, then it remains with the vehicle. This car was returned to Tesla via lemon laws with a screen defect, and then Tesla fixed the issue and sold it at auction.

    So it's a bit of a strange scenario. They shouldn't have removed the software from the vehicle after it was auctioned unless the appropriate parties were made aware.

    20 votes
  3. [3]
    Shahriar
    Link
    This seems like a gross move that wouldn't benefit Tesla in any way once made public. As a potential customer, this leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

    This seems like a gross move that wouldn't benefit Tesla in any way once made public.

    As a potential customer, this leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

    15 votes
    1. [2]
      Greg
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Strongly agreed. Tesla even say it was "incorrectly configured", and given that the only ones with the power to configure that are Tesla themselves, that's tantamount to admitting it was their...

      Strongly agreed. Tesla even say it was "incorrectly configured", and given that the only ones with the power to configure that are Tesla themselves, that's tantamount to admitting it was their mistake.

      Tesla made a mistake in the customer's favour, and they bear no actual cost for leaving it as-is. I'm astonished that they'd squeeze a customer in the hope of a notional few thousand dollars rather than just writing to explain the mistake and congratulate the customer on their free bonus features!

      If the customer had bought new, and thus been totally aware that they hadn't specced or paid for the feature then I could maybe see it being removed (although I still wouldn't agree), but in this case the customer and the dealer both acted in total good faith. Tesla are the bad guy even by their own narrative.

      [Edit] Grammar.

      14 votes
      1. jackson
        Link Parent
        Even if it was bought new, it could be seen as a marketing opportunity. Just writing a letter to say "hey, we misconfigured your car when you purchased it, so you'll have access to FSD and...

        Even if it was bought new, it could be seen as a marketing opportunity. Just writing a letter to say "hey, we misconfigured your car when you purchased it, so you'll have access to FSD and Autopilot" could have easily gone viral and bought a lot of customer goodwill, for the relatively low cost of $8,000 (which isn't even the cost of parts, just the cost of lost profits)

        4 votes
  4. [2]
    Autoxidation
    Link
    Just wanted to post an update to this story that Tesla restored FSD to this vehicle at no charge, claimed it was a mixup and miscommunication....

    Just wanted to post an update to this story that Tesla restored FSD to this vehicle at no charge, claimed it was a mixup and miscommunication.

    https://twitter.com/thirdrowtesla/status/1227024402803351552?s=20

    10 votes
    1. wundumguy
      Link Parent
      Still a net loss for Tesla as you know this news will not be circulated as widely as the original story. Makes me wonder how many other cars in their "internal audit" they re-enabled that didn't...

      Still a net loss for Tesla as you know this news will not be circulated as widely as the original story. Makes me wonder how many other cars in their "internal audit" they re-enabled that didn't get news coverage. Possibly zero

      3 votes