New Cars Will Nickle-and-Dime You – It's Automotive As A Service – Hackaday

Every few years, someone pushing a startup to investors comes up with an acronym or buzzword which rapidly becomes the new hotness in those circles. One of the most pernicious is “as a Service,” which takes regular things and finds a way to charge you a regular fee to use them.
Automotive companies just absolutely loved the sound of this, and the industry is rapidly moving to implement subscription services across the board. Even if there’s hardware in your car for a given feature, you might find you now need to pay a monthly fee to use it. Let’s explore how this came about, and talk about which cars are affected. You might be surprised to find yours already on the list.
A long time ago, before the world went mad, you could option out your car with all kinds of nice equipment when you ordered it from the dealership. You’d pay a bit extra, of course, but some nice people at the factory would bolt in the extra gear, and you’d enjoy the extra nice little touches that you’d paid for.
It was a simple system, and it made sense. Things like heated seats or stereo upgrades really needed to be installed at the factory; going back to the dealer later for more upgrades would be complicated and a relatively unattractive option.
These days, many cars are connected to the Internet around the clock via their own built-in cellular modules. These serve all kinds of purposes, from safety monitoring to allowing the automaker to roll out software updates as needed over the air.
However, this connectivity also created a new opportunity. Automakers could now remotely turn features in the car on and off from the comfort of their ivory towers. Thus was born a new opportunity for monetization. Pay the car company a toll, else you can’t have nice things.
This may sound like a problem brewing for the future, but sadly it is already very much our present reality. The big breakout story this year has been that many customers have not realized that they’re already driving cars subject to subscription-only features.
As reported by The Drive, many Toyota customers have only just realised that the key fob remote start feature in their vehicles is only enabled if they maintain a subscription to Toyota’s Connected Services. The issue has been masked thus far, as it only effects cars built from 2018 onwards, and Toyota provides most drivers with a free 3-year subscription, extended to 10 years for those that spring for the Premium Audio package.
However, after that period is over, if no ongoing subscription is paid for,  the car’s remote start feature will cease to work. It matters not that the key fob and the vehicle can still communicate fine, nor that all the hardware is still in place. The feature will cease to work unless the fees are paid.
Obviously, there’s an argument to be made that automakers should be able to cover ongoing costs of maintaining cellular connections to vehicles. For things like remote start apps using the Internet, and other cellular-enabled features, it’s understandable why fees would be required. However, in this case, key fob remote start requires no cellular connection at all. Thus, charging a fee for this feature is solely a revenue-generating measure. Amazingly, Toyota have begun “reviewing” the situation after blowback received when the story broke.
Interestingly, some Toyota models built prior to November 12, 2018, can no longer maintain a cellular connection in the United States due to pending 3G network shutdowns. In these cases, Toyota has “enhanced” the vehicles to no longer require a cellular subscription for the remote keyfob start feature. It’s unsurprising, as Toyota no longer has a way to communicate subscription status with these cars now offline. It’s a goodwill move; Toyota could have just as easily done nothing as the cars fell off the network, and let the feature die forever.
The problem isn’t unique to Toyota, though. Tesla have been particularly keen on similar antics, famously disabling features on a used car that the previous owner already paid for. In this case, the features weren’t even subscription based, but subject to a one-time payment. Tesla cared not, and disabled the features anyway. This left the new owner of the used car significantly out of pocket, as they had paid for a car advertised as having certain features that evaporated once they took ownership.
Luxury brands have jumped on the bandwagon, too. The new EQS luxury electric sedan from Mercedes-Benz comes with rear-wheel steering. However, it’ll only steer up to 4.5 degrees unless you pony up some extra cash. As reported by Autoblog, if you want the full ten degrees of operation from the system, you’ll have to pay an annual fee of €489 euros. The hardware to do the full level of steering is in every car; Mercedes has just decided that for the German market at least, you’ll have to pay extra to get the most out of it.
BMW and Audi are getting involved too with their own takes on functions-on-demand. BMW are trialling an annual fee system for remote start and a integrated dash camera, while also contemplating asking drivers to regularly fork out for simple things like heated seats and steering wheels that are already built into the car. Audi, meanwhile, will offer higher-speed data connections as well as improved vehicle lighting operation for those who sign up for a regular payment.
Many other automakers are already running subscription services, too. Whether its for navigation system updates and traffic information, or for driver assist systems like GM’s Super Cruise, they’re all out there tying vehicle functionality to a regular monthly fee.
Outside of automakers, even accessory companies are keen to get a regular dollars flowing in. In perhaps the most horrifying example, the Klim motorcycle safety airbag system will not inflate in a crash unless owners are paid up on their subscription. Gut-wrenching stuff.
It’s not difficult to understand why this came about. From a business perspective, finding a way to get regular money flowing out of existing customers is a hugely-attractive proposition. Rather than seeing a customer once every few years when they buy a new car, and hoping they stay faithful, instead, that person can contribute each month to the company’s bottom line. If a car is owned long enough, too, the sum of the subscription fees could far exceed what the company would have originally charged for the option to be installed in the first place.
Automakers will argue that what they’re offering is flexibility. Customers will only have to pay for what they want and need, and they can purchase extra features as and when they want to use them.
However, what they’re also introducing is annoyance. The late Internet era has already weighed down the average person with a huge number of recurring credit card payments, for everything from phone plans to streaming services. Adding on yet another isn’t helping anyone, and is costing consumers more money.
Even worse, it complicates things for used buyers. Test drive a car, and it might have all the bells and whistles -until you sign it into your name and log in to the infotainment system. Then suddenly you’re getting slugged each month with an additional cost on top of the loan repayments just to keep the seats warm. It’s enough to give anyone a headache.
There’s also the spectre of a car losing its features for good once connected services are turned off. Whether it’s older cellular networks being shut down or a company going out of business in a given country, it matters not. Without a regular signal from the mothership, the features disappear. Some, like Toyota, may elect to unlock features in cars in these situations, but there are absolutely no guarantees.
The idea of features-on-demand seems to be very much slanted in favor of the automakers. The industry seeks to gain a whole new income stream at the cost of much consumer frustration. On the other hand, if people can force Toyota to stand down on the keyfobs, maybe we can do it with the other automakers as well.
Whether a consumer movement is successful or not, one suspects that a cottage industry of crackers may spring up to unlock features without paying onerous ongoing fees. We can all look forward to grooving to the cracktros while we unlock the Advanced Windscreen Wiper package for winter, at the cost of occasionally bricking the car with a bad patch. Come what may.
In the automotive world “Service” is just another word for Screw.
Owning a Toyota, I found the system (3g connect) going away, and the annual charge changed to monthly due to Toyota not knowing exactly when it would go away. I’m pleased to not had remote start.
my 2016GMC has lost features already. Some were subscription (which I refused from the start-$30/mo for remote start? $50 for GPS? Come on….) and becoming unavailable, but other possibilities worry me. I’ve had to have remote service reset the power windows – real fun coming out of a toll booth when the window goes part way up, reverses all the way open, and an error code sticks on the dash display. I’ve also had to have a reset for the audio– ahem, infotainment- system. I should imagine a dealer could do these, as well, for a price, of course.
Nope…I’m not going to play by these rules. I was fortunate to have family members who taught me in the ways of old-school repairs, rebuilds, and maintenance. Our main driver cross-country traveler is a 1989 Buick Electra with te 3.8L V6 all original. My goal is to make it last longer than me. Worst case scenario I’ll be getting some old air-cooled VWs on the road and use a gasifier if I have to.
Dude… that thing is a serious polluter. Buy an EV and take trains.
The onus shouldn’t just be on us as individuals – it would be nice if the car makers met us half way at least. If the manufacturers made it attractive enough to buy a new, more environmentally-friendly vehicle I would.
As things stand, however – cars full of un-necessary electronic crap, connected to the internet 24/7, plus now this outrageous nonsense forcing you to pay extra to use stuff you already own, etc. – there is little incentive for me to part with my 15 year old Mercedes diesel.
Who sells an EV with physical controls and no cellular modem?
unplug the modem antenna?
When the government starts targeting the airlines, military, ships, and agricultural equipment – then I’ll care more about gross polluters. I’d rather have a cheap polluter than some tree-hugmobile that goes obsolete in 5 years and makes me go broke trying to fix mistakes that were already solved years ago.
BTW: Try getting around via EVs and trains in Nebraska where I live and see how far you get.
Why? What’s the point? Nebraska is all farmland, no places worth visiting. EV is a fine option if you live in a civilized place that actually has mountains and beaches and cities. We don’t have to solve this problem for 100% of use cases, the city is where the pollution and congestion problems are.
“We don’t have to solve this problem for 100% of use cases” true, but we can for the love of humanity please stop saying “use cases”!
Yeah cuz it make no sense to distinguish a Nebraska driver from an NYC driver, they both have the exact same situation.
Bull
That car has oxygen sensors and fuel injection. Only NOX is lower in modern cars.
Now my 1960 Chrysler with a 383HD, 6mpg. That’s a serious polluter. Turns more heads than any Italian trash. Will outlast you, kid.
Also ‘Forward Look’. Right out of the Jetsons. Rolling work of art.
“That’s a serious polluter.” Depends on how much you drive it.
If they like the car with all its features an EV retrofit would be better than buying a whole new car. There’s a cottage industry converting classic cars here in the UK, usually with the guts of a Leaf as that’s the cheapest and best understood. Me, I’m buying one of the rare simple EVs in the world, a glorified golf cart.
Honestly the 90s and early 2000s were peak automobile. Just enough electronic crap to give you some creature comforts, but easy to disable when you get tired of fixing it. Same can be said for the engines, I really see what the boomers meant about carbs now. Can’t wait for congress to legislate the ICE to death, you know, for global warming or some such thing.
There is zero progress on the corrosion problem, which continues to be the #1 source of automobile death. Who cares about the frippery when the car fails inspection due to excessive rust.
Any corrosion on mine, I chop out and weld in stainless steel sheet, plate or tube. Job done.
So that means the parts of the car that you can’t see are pure oxide at this point. Good luck in a crash, you will need it.
My 2001 Chevy Tahoe has a computer-controlled climate control system (heating and cooling) and . . . I’ve had some times when I want to do something but the controlling computer won’t LET me. Run the AC for dehumidification in a wet winter? Silly human, you don’t need AC when it’s cold out! Want to bring in outside air to replace humid interior air? Silly human, you don’t want to bring in cold outside air!
It makes me want to pull out the control system and install one that listens to me as though I were the owner and user.
It also makes me somewhere between leery and fearful about how much a modern car would ignore my wishes.
Just wait for your government to implement a licence plate scanning system and fine you automatically when you try to access a town or something with your 3.8L V6 environmental disaster 🙂
Isn’t the received wisdom that it’s much greener to run an old ICE engine car for as long as you can rather than replace it with something new?
Generally yeah because jumping 20 years in ICE cars doesn’t cut your emissions per mile much so you need to drive longer than the lifespan of the car to make up the manufacturing costs. EVs change that if your grid is clean enough, I regularly see 20g of co2 per kwh on windy nights making an EV 30x less co2-emitting per mile than an efficient petrol car.
Manufacturing’s another matter. Before someone links Volvo’s report remember to read it for key values like co2 emitted during battery construction or grid co2 per kwh, I didn’t spot those but their absence makes the conclusion questionable.
I read this article recently which covers some aspects of this:
https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/top-10-electric-car-myths/
The part that answers the question above is: Myth #8. Maintaining An Old Car Is Better For The Environment Than Buying An EV
The summary is that an EV: “The conventional car’s cumulative emissions from driving alone are greater after three years than manufacturing and driving an EV.”
> Our main driver cross-country traveler is a 1989 Buick Electra
I would definitely put a good alarm and brake lock into that car as it is worth keeping.
I was never really into Chevy after they introduced the CCC and I had to return a brand new 1981 Camaro disaster, replaced by a used 1980 X-11 Citation … BUT, I would 100% take your 1989 over a new Honda, Ford, or Chevy. Though if you think putting a water pump INSIDE the engine where it can leak into the engine oil and nuke the engine is a good thing, Ford has a 3.5L twin turbo direct injection engine for many current models.
I took mercy on one guy and fixed his wacked sliding sunroof on his late model Silverado that no one could fix to get it to shut all the way, including the dealership which wanted to charge him $1000+ to put in a new unit. After I fixed it for $0 in parts, you know what he told me? Open the headliner back up and disconnect the harness, I never want the $%#^ thing to open ever again 😀
The internal water pump is only on the transversely mounted models, in other words all the front wheel drive models. If you have an F-150, you’re OK as far as that one goes.
“Revenue-generating measure”? I think you misspelled “bold-faced theft”. “The industry seeks to gain a whole new income stream at the cost of much consumer frustration”? I would have written that as “Car makers seek to make ownership obsolete and force everyone into a rental-only market at the cost of consumer autonomy”. If you had phrased it that way, then it would have been clearer what’s really at stake – namely, the market for entire _cars_ might become a rental-only proposition. Chilling? You bet. But think about it – if the whole inconvenient second-hand market just disappeared, wouldn’t that be the ultimate and perpetual “whole new income stream”? And none of that looted money will be streaming towards customers – or should I say “serfs”?
I understand the responsibility of Hackaday writers and editors to keep inflammatory expression in check. But really, casting this matter in terms of “new revenue streams” and “consumer frustration” is praising with faint damns. I think Hackaday landed on the wrong side of the condemnatory line here – the loud, indignant, and decidedly NOT conciliatory condemnation of these schemes is the duty of everyone who cares about personal freedom and would defend it.
As someone who is living in a developing country, I’m more and more curious the future of the cars. Most people cannot afford a new car here, we import 10-15 year old used cars from richer countries. How will these cars look like when they get old enough for us to buy?
That’s a good question. Unfortunately, it may be that your future cars will have useful or important features only available by subscription or disabled entirely. That’s not right and it’s not fair, but it might happen.
But you’re here reading Hackaday, so maybe you’re a hacker, too. And maybe you’ll be someone who hacks those future cars so the features work again without subscriptions, or you might re-enable those features that were permanently disabled. And maybe you’ll make life better for people in your country, maybe you’ll teach others how to hack and repair and improve many different kinds of machines and services. And together you will make the world better than it is today.
That’s what we’re all here for, and it’s a good purpose – make life better for everyone.
Hack the planet!
Basically, you will be up a creek without a paddle, so to speak. USA Federal law requires OEMs to provide parts for 15 years. Even if said parts being sold are being marked up at least 20x what they cost going into the vehicle. Once the OEM stops making the smart components, you are left only with used parts. Taking apart the code in a 1980s-1990s vehicle to make a new EPROM is totally different then what would be required to duplicate a modern brain box.
Unlike GM, Ford has been pretty solid on building long lasting brain boxes (12A650) and the wiring harnesses are not total low cost junk (aka Passlock in GM) prone to failure, but, they all have obsolescence built in. The door panel on my wife’s 2013 Ford Hybrid where the handle attaches costs $400+ USA, if or when that 2013 car hits your country in 2028 or 2033, do you think Ford is going to gift you a free CPU or sell it at cost?
Though you might be able to fix the CVT properly and cheaply in 2028, good luck on getting Ford to provide the code to take into account any mods you had to do to fix it. Right now they keep trying to hit us up for $200 to update the infotainment system to the latest maps, which happens to run many things including the back up camera.
No, the 3rd world will just become a literal dumping ground, like the Philippines, though instead they will be garbage cars instead of UK ships full of it.
I know it is too much to ask for in our actor based reality, but, “poorer” countries run by true patriots, should take 20 year old designs, past any patent protection, reverse engineer them, and produce them, bumper to bumper, within their own borders so they are not at the mercy of any other country. Even if it means importing the steel to do it.
Can you say Cuba?
Classic cars rebuilt with whatever is available.
Wouldn’t something like a megasquirt or some newer iteration do the trick?
Even in early navigation units you had to buy updated maps, only instead of a simple update they came on a DVD you left in the NAV unit!
You can get used cars made in Brazil and India. The little Ford Ranger pickup has been made in Brazil all along. Does anyone ever sell a Toyota Hilux (which we have never been able to get in the US Grrrr.). I think Mahindra in India still makes old-school Jeeps, Land Rovers, and Suzuki’s. The old Land Rover is still made in New Zealand. (Hint: Don’t buy old Russian cars before you watch some Russians dash cam. The way they can roll over while practically standing still is amazing.)
Mahindra tried to sell their Roxor here in the US as a side-by-side off road only utility vehicle for a couple years, until they got sued by Chrysler. It was too similar to the old CJ Jeeps, a model Chrysler (Well, AMC at the time) hasn’t sold in about 50 years. They have redesigned the Roxor and it’s coming back next year. They can be registered (well, the old Roxor, we’ll see if the new one is) and road legal in some states with the proper modifications (lights, etc.) and title work.
Work in the Suame Magazine automotive industrial zone in Kumasi, Ghana suggests that a combination of vehicle localization along with very focused electronics trade schooling will keep these vehicles running. The value of a vehicle in Ghana is so high, that it has long weighed the repair/replace decision in favor of repair. I don’t see this changing in the foreseeable future.
In Ghana’s case, the challenge of adapting to the increasing reliance by OEMs on automotive electronics has lead the national government to introduce several electronics training programs to supplement traditional mechanical apprenticeship training. I suspect the combination of training and adaptation will lead to a vast array of repair workarounds, similar to those we periodically see within Hackaday.
VW tied some simple features to its server in its prior EV models, in particular the timed start for charging and HVAC. (For those with off-peak electric rates for charging, and to preheat/cool the vehicle using grid rather than battery power). They also used 3g cell connections. The results are obvious, and so far, they have no plans for hardware updates to existing vehicles.
I can accept that non scheduled remote control of HVAC needs a phone connection, but there is absolutely no reason to do a simple timer that way.
Oh yea, it would be more accurate to say that the first N years are included in the purchase price, the service was never “free”, it just wasn’t billed separately.
Oh yea, in VW’s case, while the remote service included with the car, was just that, once the prepaid time was up, they bundled it with their roadside service package. Attempts to purchase just the online portion were refused.
In Sweden the phrase “Get it for Free” is most often illegal unless it is actually free.
Buying something else to get something for “free” isn’t free of charge, and therefor the phrase “for free” is false advertising. We instead use the phrase “på köpet” or literally “as part of the purchase” or “on the buy”.
I bet you could use a light timer with a properly rated relay to cut the charging power.
I don’t know about the rest of you but I don’t want any internet connected technology in my car. Seriously, immediately disable that stuff because we all know it’s not secure.
Gravis said “I don’t know about the rest of you but I don’t want any internet connected technology in my car. Seriously, immediately disable that stuff because we all know it’s not secure.” I totally agree – and increasingly, there’s no viable choice when it comes to new-car purchases. As I understand it, if you disable your car’s internet connection, the manufacturer can’t do software updates unless you take your car to the dealer.
But you might not go to the dealer because you may not know about the update. Since a lack of updates (and the fact that you have modified your vehicle) would be cause for warranty termination, there goes the warranty. If a case for an accident or injury caused by lack of updates can be made, then there goes manufacturer liability too – a liability which would then fall on the owner.
Earlier I used the phrase ‘viable choice’, but I think the ‘viable’ either is or will soon be irrelevant. At some point newer cars will require internet connections in order to maintain even basic functionality.
Also, think about some of the ramifications of this ‘manufacturer effectively maintains control’ model. Had an accident because your car malfunctioned? Suing the manufacturer? One simple OTA update and a little record-keeping legerdemain and, presto-changeo, there goes your case – you’re on the hook. Same name as somebody the cops are looking for? The manufacturer conveniently bricks your car by mistake, And on and on and on.
This is a very bad development and is yet another example of how corporations are doing their best to restore feudalism.
I’m surprised they haven’t figured out yet they could make a fortune by offering a “track your spouse in real time” service…
The Saudis can already do that…
iPhones can do that for free. “Hey Siri, where’s my wife?” And without breaking privacy – Apple don’t even know themselves, only your other devices on the same Apple ID can decrypt the location.
Samsung also have a similar thing I believe, though without the privacy – Samsung know where you are.
Nononono… Not ‘track your spouse’. That could be seen as illegal. Nope.
But “Track your Teen(TM)” or “Eldercare Silver Edition” sounds virtuous and almost obligatory unless you don’t really love your family you horrible ingrate who could afford it easily!
Google already allows you to turn on family location sharing, so you can share your location with people in a “family” group you set up. My parents turned it on when we were driving to vacation (separate vehicles) and never turned it off, and it’s accurate enough that when zooming in on google maps I can tell what part of their house they are in.
Unfortunately the conversion of the industry to electric cars is a golden opportunity to change the paradigm across the board. Every manufacturer will get onboard and there will be nothing we can do.
except hack 🙂 I can’t imagine it would be that hard to bring the heated seats and steering wheel up, unless the ECU notices the change and disables the car. But then the doctrine of first sale comes into play.
These will be interesting times.
For the record I had no idea my 2021 toyota had remote start and when I tried it it didn’t work anyway, so I have lost nothing.
EVs are fundamentally simpler than ICEs. The drive train is basically just a motor, a motor controller, and a battery. These are all readily DIY and hackable. This community is particularly well suited to figure out how they work, and then find ways to modify or defeat the automaker’s programming to do your bidding.
Personally, I’ve been building and driving my own EVs since the 1970’s. Today’s automaker-EVs are providing a gold mine of motors, controllers, chargers, batteries etc. that can all be hacked to work any way you like. The internet is full of how-to examples.
A whole new “hot rod” movement is evolving, to convert older cars into EVs by re-using motors, controllers, and batteries from scrapped or crashed EVs.
Are you not concerned about the powers that be making any sort of customized vehicle illegal to operate on public roads? I’ve already read proposals that “we” need to get all cars talking to infrastructure to enable driverless cars and efficiency proposing measures.
So car fetish is more important than safety? I have to put up with idiots who tint their windows even though it’s me who suffers when they can’t see where they are going.
well put,an EV could be literaly hot wired, battery ,wire, motor….
madman,sparks,smoke
Boshe is now mass producing silicone carbide mosfets, huge power handlng and super efficient.
yank all that fussy phone home precious stock controllers and
roll your own
Personally I think “as a service” has its pros and cons.
It is largely a question of ownership, if one just leases/rents the hardware, then a fee for various features is “okay”.
But if one buys the hardware, then it is a different story. The device maker might though argue that one haven’t “bought” the firmware, not that this matters.
When it comes to software I personally tend to follow the “moral compass” that is:
1. If the firmware/software is in the device, then one as a user should have the full right to use it as intended. (For an example, the firmware on a network card isn’t “owned” by the end user, but the end user for sure wouldn’t pay any subscription fees for it….)
2. If there is an arbitrary software limit to the functionality, but the software is technically there, then I at least thinks the company providing the solution did wrong on their part.
2.a For an example, if a PCB CAD tool’s “RF design suite” is 400$/month as an optional extra, then don’t pack that binary into every copy of the program… In short, don’t provide software for free if you want to sell it or provide it as a subscription service. (Don’t provide a binary with a license that states “You can’t use this unless you pay for the subscription service or the one time fee”, one can likewise place a 100$ bill on the bus with a sticky note saying “don’t steal, this belongs to X company”.) (another added bonus of not including “licensed legally unusable garbage” is that downloading the software will become much faster, not to mention use less storage space.)
2.b Another example is when there is just some value restricting the functionality, yet again PCB CAD tools are a good example, some limits the max layer count that one can work with by a simple integer in the config file. (Paying to have 1 single value changed is a bit brave… Also why is kicad limited to only 32 copper layers? (I know 32 layers is huge, but 255 would be way more logical from a software perspective, just like the max board size is 2147.483648 mm in each direction (Since it is a 32 bit integer, and the negative numbers are apparently “unusable”.)))
But how about hardware then?
If a company provided the hardware, then they have provided the hardware. As long as it isn’t rented/leased, you should be legally fine to do whatever you want with it unless it is legally considered to endanger others around you. (And yes that is excessively oversimplified.)
So subscription services works in hardware for things that are:
A. pure software features. (on the PC side of things this would be our regular slew of programs.)
B. stuff that isn’t intrinsically part of the hardware itself. (External communication (Internet), and subscription services like music, video, weather/congestion information, etc..)
While subscription services doesn’t really work that well for stuff that just should work. (here we come back to the arbitrary software limits of 2.b above.) An exceptionally good example here would be the Mercedes-Benz rear-wheel steering being arbitrarily limited to less than half its range. (I can accept if the range needs to be limited for pure safety/mechanical reasons, but that argument falls flat on its face if one can just pay to get more range…)
Likewise paying for options that are part of the device already is also somewhat bogus.
We can look at oscilloscopes that for the longest time have had various versions with optional extras like more memory, faster sampling rates, more bandwidth, etc. But it is almost always software limits, and honestly, sometimes it is nice to “downgrade” a scope to its lower bandwidth as a nice hardware filter, but that feature is rarely an option even if one bought “the best” options available.
In the end.
I personally think that if one provided the hardware and/or software, then the end user should have the right to use it. With the exception to leased/rented products.
I should probably also add that the big advantage of “as a service” (outside of recurring payments for infrastructure upkeep), is that one knows that someone takes on full responsibility over fixing any flaws or issues in the thing provided, and that technical support should likewise be provided. (For “free software” one usually only have the wills and desires of whatever community is maintaining said software, there is no real contractual obligations for support nor upkeep.)
Although the hardware is physically in your car, you haven’t payed for it, that’s why you can’t use it: it isn’t yours. If you accept to pay the monthly/yearly fees, they rent that hardware and you can use it.
Now here it comes the interesting part: if I’m not paying the fee and I can’t use it… why do I have to store goods from the car manufacturer in MY car? Those elements add weight (like the seat heaters), which means an extra fuel consumption and, thus, cost money to me. I should be able to ask a fee to the manufacturer for using MY car as a storage place for its unused items 😀
I would argue that if one gets something as part of a purchase that one then owns that thing, unless the thing is removed from the item before hand. (point 2.a in my first comment.)
The thing brought along might to lack necessary firmware to “work”, but the hardware is still sold to the end user if it is part of the car.
If it can’t “trivially” be removed by the end user and returned to the company, then it isn’t a separate item that can have its own license in regards to ownership. (I will though have to make an exception to software, but that is a different can of worms in this case.)
If the manufacturer is storing a product in your property in the hope you will pay for it, then they should pay rent for that space.
In the UK that is termed “unsolicited goods” and they become your property after 6 months.
Gating features on an additional payment or subscription can make sense. E.G. Fusion360 is free, but 4+ axis requires a sub. Makes sense – very few hackers are using 4-axis (I say that having built one myself), so it limits the more “commercial” features to paying users, rather than using honesty that commercial users do indeed pay.
Similarly for MHz limits on scopes; I get that.
Sure, there’s always a few of us pushing beyond the limits of “commercial” features, but to be honest, for 90% of us, it works and means everyone benefits from the company only making/maintaining one type of hardware/software.
A local engineering firm has a massive CNC tool-changer, from which they “buy” (unlock) tools when they need them. Yes, they’re already in the machine, but it means they can get new tools in seconds instead of days. Makes sense for them.
But with cars we’re not used to subscriptions, and we’re not seeing the initial purchase price drop. And it’s not “flexibility” to pay for 12m of heated seats when you only want them for 2m.
As stated, there is pros and cons to things as a service.
Though, a lot of the things that are included as a service aren’t things one would only pay for the moment when one needs it. Changing subscriptions is an extra hassle on the end user, and license terms will usually screw them over regardless, since new subscription means new terms, and that is going to slide to the manufacturer’s advantage.
In regards to tool changers on CNC machines, having tools sitting there that one “don’t own” just means that they are more expensive overall, since one will be paying for said tool regardless. Same thing goes for locked away features in other products.
The argument that “everyone benefits from the company only making/maintaining one type of hardware/software.” is only partly true.
Hardware can be diced into logical segments where one don’t have to maintain each product as a whole, but rather as a collection of parts/designs.
For an example, R&S uses the same front panel on a lot of their bench products, it has the same core software and the same base features for all products that use it. This means that they only have to maintain that one part for all products that use it. Even if the various products themselves have wildly different things within, a multimeter after all is far different than a power supply or frequency counter.
A lot of product upkeep is generally about having a competent foundation to build the various products on. Extra features can be maintained in isolation of each other. This means that one don’t have 50+ products in need of individualized upkeep, but rather 50+ selections of a smaller subset of parts/designs. Making generational jumps forth can though be required depending on how the various parts/designs are designed to integrate with each other.
I should also clarify that when I say “parts/designs” I don’t mean an item on a shelf, it could be, but it could also be a schematic or other design that can be integrated into a larger more product specific part. How to exactly slice up a given product stack is a very debatable topic.
Tool changers on CNC machines are mostly included hardware. Having a 6-axis Lathe with live tooling wouldn’t make much sense if the ability to change tools wasn’t available. And I cannot think of any manufacturing company paying for a brand new CNC machine which would come with certain tools preloaded but only available as premium value features. What happens when the new inexperienced CNC operator takes the new tool out for a test drive and crashes the damn thing into the table or the headstock? Game over, cannot replace? Lol, not bloody likely! Also, FYI utilitlizing different tools on CNC machines isn’t some magical automatic process by only calling for that tool in the program (at least not the 1st time out of the gate). Each tool must be measured in many ways and defined in the offsets, otherwise how does the machine know what is has in its collet? It doesn’t know until you tell it what it has and what size/shape the tool may be. if your local engineering firm owns such a machine, then they are fools for having purchased such a ridiculous eurolized pile of crap! Not in my country, not in my world…
I too think the concept of having “tools you don’t yet own” in a tool changer in a CNC machine, seems like a very odd place to have them.
Last I checked, tool changers are usually more expensive if they hold more tools, so surely one don’t want to buy a huge one with preloaded tools one don’t yet own that only occupy that precious space that one could use for one’s actual tools…
I guess I’ll be keeping my 2010 Subaru until it rots into the ground.
It just works.
Screw any and all automakers pulling this garbage. They can go pound sand.
I can’t wait until the rent AI addons as a service.
salesman/woman: ‘With this brand new AI addon called “You and your family first”, the AI will choose to plough through children, nuns, you name it anybody or anything at all if that is what is required for the driver and passengers to survive a potentially lethal failure or a crash (possibly caused by other vehicles hitting your).’
SCAAS: Stupid crap as a service.
1. Remote start a car – Nope. The motor ain’t runnin’ if I ain’t sittin’ in the driver’s seat. I see no earthly need to start the motor of a car if I’m not in it.
2. GPS – I use a separate navigation device. The middle console displays in the cars are useless – I need to see the map as I’m driving. Europe has these ingenious intersections with multiple converging roads. More like half an asterisk than a T intersection. “Turn right” – which of the three streets on the right in the next 100 feet do you mean? You’ve got to be able to look and see which street is the correct one.
3. Timed charging start – Internet acces for that? Seriously? Just use the buillt in clock, ffs.
I’m all for electronics that make cars less polluting. I’m not in favor of stupid crap that exists just because it is possible.
——-
On the subject of “less polluting”:
The manufacturers need to implement a “put the spurs to it” mode on the throttle.
All the cars I’ve driven in the last few years try to avoid polluting in those (rare) cases when I stomp on the accelerator. This results in hesitation – it takes a second or so for the engine to actually speed up.
It happens that some dweeb is speeding on a curvy city street when I’m trying to pull out onto the road. Despite mirrors (placed on the roads so that you can see if someone is coming around a curve) and looking carefully and waiting for a safe moment, you do occasionally pull out on the road and only then discover that some yahoo is just behind the curve. The only thing to do is to stomp the accelerator and get moving – and then the ECU says “hang on, gotta change the motor settings.” It’s no fun sitting there with the accelerator pressed to the floor, some rowdy bearing down on you at what looks like 300 miles an hour, and the ECU going “can’t pollute.”
I don’t stomp the accelerator unless it is an emergency – when I stomp it, I by god mean move it, not think about it and maybe get to it next week.
This is a good point. I had an old diesel Camry with this problem due to turbo lag. Now I have the opposite problem: The EV has so much torque at 0 RPM that the unweighted tire loses traction through the open differential when booting it out of a junction even in dry conditions on a good surface. I have to feather the pedal until the car is pointed straight before putting the rest of the power down.
Your EV is badly designed. Limited-slip differentials have been around for decades, and traction control systems, too. Pure electric drivetrains should handle this by default.
I had a non-turbo Datsun diesel in the past. Very sluggish.
I learned to be patient. If I was intending to pull onto a city street, and an approaching car was less than a block and a half away, I waited until it passed.
“1. Remote start a car – Nope. The motor ain’t runnin’ if I ain’t sittin’ in the driver’s seat. I see no earthly need to start the motor of a car if I’m not in it.”
Tell me you don’t live in Alaska without telling me you don’t live in Alaska.
That’s when you need a block heater and an auxilliary heater for your car.
I guess it’s a NA vs Europe thing. NA have no (or little) issues with having cold cars idling simply to heat the motor, fuel is cheap after all. In Europe, block heaters – either electrical plugged into a wall socket, or fuel based are the thing (in colder climates anyway). In Sweden at least, cities will specify time limits for idling, say 30s or 1 minute.
The Acura I just bought has remote start, but they dont tell you it wont run for more than 5 minutes. Not extremely useful when its -30, in fact its pretty goddamn pointless. If the dealer demanded an extra fee for that, I’d put the car through their storefront.
i think the biggest problem is still that cars tend to be in service way longer than any electronic trend.
an age of 10 or 20 years is common, or even longer.
are the manufacurers going to maintain the software, security updates and services for that long ?
and if not, most cars will lose all their features or be driving security risks.
I think most people don’t realise how fast technologie evolves.
A 15 to 20 year old car might still be ok to drive, but imagine the computers back in that time.
Smartphones were just getting started.
Now image the current cars in 15 years.
The 3G network going out of service is just one example.
Features like Android Auto or Apple Carplay are some others.
Are these going to work for years while smartphones are evolving every year ?
Car software is usually not updated that often, and even if, the hardware might not be capable enough.
Witness the warranty. Manufacturers lobbied for a ten year maximum.
Several benefits resulted. No obligation to supply spare parts after 10 years.
Guaranteed new car sales.
The truth is, a warranty simply is a limited liability for the company.
I regret selling every classic car I’ve owned.
Surely it can’t be that hard to make the wireless module modular. As part of your ‘service’ fee, it can be upgraded should the need arise. Seems like Toyota lacked the imagination for this so your smart car became dumb once the 3G net was off.
Not in New England, after about 10 or 15 years the cars start failing inspection due to excessive rust. The DPW is generally really excessive about road salt, the upside is the roads are not slick. I say cars should be made super cheap from super cheap materials, easily recycled. There is no solution to the rust problem so treat cars like disposable paper cups.
CA says HA HA!
Move.
Typical California attitude, car means everything, nothing else matters.
Yeah, so any auto makers out there that haven’t drunk the Kool Aid? I have an ’06 Accord that still runs fine, but there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to become a home mechanic on top of everything else. One day, she will be scrap, and then what? Buy a 20-year-old car without a cell modem? Suck it up and buy a SAAS car? Or become a home mechanic enough to hack the SAAS car anyway?
“car as a service” sounds great to me, let someone else deal with maintenance and obsolescence. Life is way too short to spend it dealing with this crap. I don’t own the airplane or the subway car or the bus either.
That already exists in a “not fleecing the customer” way.
It’s called “Leasing” in regards to ownership, and “service contract” regarding maintenance and repair.
Granted there’s some legalese involved and sorting out the bad apples, but it makes it modular and flexible enough that there’s (gasp) competition, which leads to better prices for the end user.
This shit WILL lead to you getting bled dry in the name of maximizing the profit for the company on your behalf.
But I guess this is what happens when there’s a large chunk of people who has a driver’s license that don’t wanna put any thought into actual car ownership.
Leasing means you are still responsible for repairs and they cap your miles. I want service like a taxi, pay for what you use.
“putting thought into car ownership” === “slave to your car” when you say the car must control my thoughts.
I have a whole house full of appliances and food and clothing and I don’t let any of those things rule my life, why do I need to change to accommodate a 4000 pound chunk of metal that will die in a few years.
I’ve never had a lease in which I was responsible for repairs. By the nature of the lease, the vehicle will still be within its original warranty during the time you have it, so any issues would be covered and you’ll almost certainly be given a loaner from the dealership while your vehicle is being worked on.
Unless by “responsible” you literally mean you don’t want to have to take it back to the dealer if there’s an issue with it.
Do you want poor or mechanically savvy people to keep on driving the equivalent of a 1993 Toyota Camry despite the push for EV’s?
Because “Car Equipment As A Service” will make poor or mechanically savvy people keep on driving the equivalent of a 1993 Toyota Camry.
I’m not worried, those old clunkers rusted out a long time ago. An advantage of excessive road salt is that everyone is driving a fairly new car.
What they’re doing is turning cars into CDs.
For the younger players, back in the 1980s and ’90s software was mostly distributed on CDs. There were big legal arguments over whether you were paying $500 for a circle of plastic or some nebulous form of access to the data written on the CD, which still belonged to the publisher. In parallel with that, market forces made one thing crystal clear: the minute a publisher announced the end of development and/or support for the data, that $500 CD would go into the $5-$10 bargain bin.
In the software market, almost all of a product’s value is tied to the the promise of future support.
Auto manufacturers and companies like John Deere haven’t learned that yet. They think their piles of engineered metal, and their institutional knowledge associated with designing and building piles of engineered metal, have some kind of value. But as soon as they lock the pile of metal’s utility behind a software license or subscription fee, that stops being true. The pile of metal becomes a CD.. a delivery medium for the software/subscription. When software support ends, the pile of metal loses almost all of its resale value.
In suit-speak, they’re devaluing their core competencies to become second-rate software houses.
The Toyota keyfob example mentioned above will have a short shelf-life. Anyone who tries to sell the car after three years will want to hide the feature.. it increases the car’s total cost of ownership and gives potential buyers a reason to ask for a lower resale price. First-time buyers who keep the car for more than three years will have to weigh the utility of the feature with the knowledge that they’re paying for something they’ll never recover in resale or trade-in value.
And as we’ve seen many times already, software-as-a-service companies tend to end support with all the grace of a compost heap falling down a flight of stairs. Most of them can get away with it because they only have on product, and no reputation left to trash after they drop support. Car companies have an ongoing reputation to look after, so their handling of one sunset will carry over to all their other vehicles.
If you don’t like it don’t buy it. Let the capitalist system do what it does best. Vote with your wallet.
This won’t matter in a few years. We won’t be owning cars anyway. Google, Uber, Lyft, etc. will be the owners.
You guys have now convinced me it is worth replacing the worn out front seat upholstery in my 1995 Ford Thunderbird LX 4.6 v8 with 105,000 miles. Thanks!
To me what’s interesting here is that people are attached to their vehicles like some sort of teddy bear for grownups.
I am waiting for the spiritual successor (EV or otherwise) to the Model T and VW Beatle. Cheep, easy to fix, modifiable and with the bare essentials technology wise. The kind of car where you can fix it with a handful of tools and a weekend. The kind of car where you aren’t worried about paying a service for remote start, you buy a kit off of E-bay and install it yourself.
Your ideal vehicle is a death trap.
I like what the Japanese do, the cost of vehicle inspection rises exponentially with the age of the car so after a few years it’s cheaper to just get a new car. Keeps those old unsafe clunkers off the road and makes it safer for everyone. The road is a shared resource, everyone has to be safe.
Have you lost a loved one to a car accident? It puts a big crater in the family that never heals. You don’t want to go there. Be safe for the sake of those who love you, get a safe car and drive it carefully. Don’t think that your above average driving skills will save you when a drunk driver hits you.
I once read a scifi book about a broke private investigator or something who had to argue his way in and out of his apartment with the door-as-a-service. I think the car marketing people read that book also.
I think it was Dirk Gently’s holistic detective agency by Douglas Adams
There’s a game you can play with “…as a service”. Just add a random word and check the actual meaning. It screams why “…as a service” is so wrong. Some examples:
“Sex as a service” is just prostitution or in some cases, marriage.
“Flying as a service” is stopping your plane from crashing aka blackmail.
Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
By using our website and services, you expressly agree to the placement of our performance, functionality and advertising cookies. Learn more

source