Tesla quietly disabled the autopilot feature on a Model S
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Tesla can remotely add and remove software features from its cars.
- A Tesla Model S sold via a third-party dealer had its Autopilot and self-driving features remotely disabled by the company.
- The owner discovered Tesla had performed an "audit" of the car three days after selling it to the dealer he subsequently bought it from, and decided the autopilot features (totalling $8,000) had not been paid for.
- The features were subsequently removed when the car received its next software update.
- Tesla confirmed to the owner it had removed the features, and said he would be able to "purchase an upgrade" if he'd like them back.
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Tesla surreptitiously removed the self-driving features from one of its cars after it was sold to a dealership, according to a report from Jalopnik.
The vehicle, a Model S, was sold to a third-party dealership via auction on November 15 last year. A month later, on December 20, it was bought by a customer identified in the report as "Alec."
When Alec bought the car it was listed as coming with Tesla's "Enhanced Autopilot" and "Full Self Driving Capability" features, as confirmed in documentation viewed by Jalopnik.
Enhanced Autopilot allows owners to remotely summon their cars, while Full Self Driving allows the car to drive itself to a selected location - although the company writes on its website it still requires human supervision. Together the features total $8,000.
Although Alec bought the car on the understanding that Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self Driving would be part of the deal, both features subsequently vanished.
An invoice from Tesla later revealed that on November 18, three days after the car was sold to the dealer, Tesla conducted an "audit" of the car and decided the features had not been paid for. Consequently when the car received its next software update in December, those features were remotely removed from the vehicle.
Tesla's customer support confirmed this to Alec in an email:
"Tesla has recent [sic] identified instances of customers being incorrectly configured for Autopilot versions that they did not pay for. Since, there was an audit done to correct these instances. Your vehicle is one of the vehicles that was incorrectly configured for Autopilot. We looked back at your purchase history and unfortunately Full-Self Driving was not a feature that you had paid for. We apologize for the confusion. If you are still interested in having those additional features we can begin the process to purchase the upgrade."
A Tesla spokesperson declined to comment on the case when contacted by Business Insider.
Tesla frequently uses its remote software rollouts to add features to its cars, and to fix pre-existing ones. Examples include "dog mode," designed to keep the car cool while an owner leaves their dog in it, and which Elon Musk vowed to fix after a Tesla owner reported his car had reached 85 degrees while in dog mode.
Having features remotely removed is a much rarer occurrence and - especially given Tesla's request for Alec to pay to have them re-installed - throws up issues of what control car makers can retain over vehicles after they've been sold.
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