Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

April 19, 2024

Would Tesla cars still work if Tesla went out of business?

Filed under: Computer Software,My Thoughts,Tech Related — Suramya @ 9:18 AM

Dave Winer asked the following question on MastodonIf Tesla went out of business, would my Model Y stop working??” and at the first glance it sounds like a ridiculous question. In fact, if you told someone even 15 years ago that you were worried that your car would stop working if the company that manufactured it went out of business they would laugh at you. But thanks to the over proliferation of Things as a Service which is used by a lot of manufacturers to control and profit out of stuff that should be included this is no longer the case.

Auto manufacturers are now adding functionality as a service to their cars for things that were included for free earlier. For example, BMW started selling Seat Heating as a Service in 2022. Tesla has subscriptions for Premium connectivity and ‘self-driving’. Mercedes goes even further and charges an extra $1200/year to unlock a fully functional accelerator.

However the big problem with Tesla (and other cars) is that all the critical software components are protected by DRM. Once a device has DRM on it, Section 1201 of the DMCA makes it a felony to bypass that DRM, even for legitimate purposes.

We have already seen cases where owners are unable to start their cars from the mobile app when the Tesla servers went down (Apparently the manual key worked in this case). Others have seen problems starting their car when they lost connectivity during software updates. I do seem to remember reading somewhere that there is a phone home system built into Tesla’s that would stop the car from working fully if it could no longer talk to the company servers but I can’t find the link to the story anywhere.

So long story short, if Tesla went out of business a lot of the functionality in the car would stop working. As per a forum post on ‘Tesla Motors Club’ from 2021 the following would stop working if the car didn’t have connectivity (I can’t verify this because I don’t have a Tesla and no desire to get one):

  • control aircon remotely turn on/off adjust temperature
  • turn sentry mode on/off
  • control heated seats and heated steering wheel
  • open/close trunk
  • check location/speed of the car
  • unlock remotely
  • allow someone to drive the car (while you’re in a different location to the car)
  • Smart summon
  • vent or close the windows
  • sentry mode alarm alerts
  • restrict speed
  • valet mode

I think some of these might work with physical controls but not sure. I think I will stick with my Honda City for now 🙂

– Suramya

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