I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s not a good thing that they did it, but I think it sort of exposed something we haven’t really thought much about:
“The first thing you need to understand is that while Tesla sells different version of its Model S, with different ranges, the range is actually entirely software-dependent. That is, it uses the same batteries in different cars — it just limits how much they’ll charge via software. Thus, spend more on a “nicer” model and more of the battery is used. So all that happened here was that Tesla “upgraded” these cars with an over the air update. In some ways, this feels kind of neat — it means that a Tesla owner could “purchase” an upgrade to extend the range of the car. But it should also be somewhat terrifying. “
I had not really considered that Tesla could build the same exact physical car, and charge different prices for it. We tend to not think that way about a product that is built in the way an automobile is. We tend to think of the price being a factor of the cost to manufacture, plus some markup. Clearly though, Tesla is making the same car, and just giving different software to the folks who are willing to pay more for it. This new reality opens up a couple of things. First, it’s an invitation to hack your car. If I can pay for the economy version of the Tesla, and then hack the software to get the features of a more premium version, doesn’t that sound enticing? Of course, how does Tesla stop someone from hacking their own car? By changing the way we define “ownership” of a car. You may buy the physical device, but the software that actually makes it work? You don’t own that. You only license it. Attempt to hack it, and Tesla can take away your license, essentially turning your car into a great big brick.
And if they have the ability to brick your car, when would they actually be able to do it? Can they be forced by law enforcement to do it? Or to simply use the software to locate a car? Obviously, they have the ability to access it remotely. That means they can absolutely track a car, and make changes to the software.
How much privacy can you reasonably expect in a Tesla? Doesn’t sound like it would be much.
Image by BitBoy