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Transportation Technology

You Might Rent Features & Options On Cars In the Future 437

cartechboy writes "These days, you go to a car dealership and you buy a car. If you want seat heaters, you might need to option for the cold weather package from the factory. Want the high-end stereo? You'll be likely be opting for some technology package which bundles in navigation. While some options are a la carte, most are bundled, and even when they are a la carte, they aren't cheap. What if in the future you could buy a car and unlock options later? Say the car came from the factory with heated seats, but you didn't pay for them. But later on, say in the middle of the freezing winter, you suddenly want them. What if you could simply pay a monthly fee during the winter months to have those heated seats work? Whether this model would benefit the consumer, the automakers, or both is yet to be seen. But automakers such as MINI are already talking about this type of a future. Is this the right road to be headed down, or are consumers going to just get screwed in the long run?"
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You Might Rent Features & Options On Cars In the Future

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  • by rhook ( 943951 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:43PM (#46030739)


    • by memnock ( 466995 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:48PM (#46030811)

      Customer, one month after purchase , "Hi, yeah, for some reason, my door won't unlock. Can you guys do a remote open for me? I'm late for work."

      Dealer: "Sorry, Mr. Smith, your door unlock feature was only available for an introductory month. Would you care to renew for the $99.99 / qtr lease at this point?"

      • by nickittynickname ( 2753061 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @08:02PM (#46030987)
        The car will now require an always on connection to work.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Customer, one month after purchase , "Hi, yeah, for some reason, my door won't unlock. Can you guys do a remote open for me? I'm late for work."

        Dealer: "Sorry, Mr. Smith, your door unlock feature was only available for an introductory month. Would you care to renew for the $99.99 / qtr lease at this point?"

        And eventually there will be a recall as that conversation will start ending something like this:

        "No thanks Mr. car dealership guy. I'll use my hammer to unlock it Oh, and by the way, I leave work at 5:00. Please expect me to stop by shortly thereafter to pry your skull open with the other side of said hammer. If you wish to discontinue this new service I'm offering, you may lease the rest of your life for the low introductory price of $199.99 per quarter. Have a wonderful day."

    • by richlv ( 778496 )

      wow. heh. i had a similar reaction. something like "fucking cretins".
      wanted to add also something about retarded idiots, but i guess they are just very greedy. i hope this plan blows in their faces.

      • Also, it would have been a harsh and undue insult to retarded idiots.

      • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @09:15PM (#46031639) Journal

        Well, this is Mini we're talking about, the world's most overpriced go-kart. If you'll buy coffee daily from Starbucks instead of making your own, why wouldn't you rent your car radio?

      • by hermitdev ( 2792385 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @09:28PM (#46031769)

        Yeah, this idea is just asinine. This isn't like software where you're not shipping some bits, or even if you ship them and selectively enable or disable. These are physically manufactured components. The parts have to be physically manufactured and installed.

        One could argue that by eliminating the variance on the manufacturing line, they could increase efficiency at assembly. If that was the case, just include the features as standard features. Otherwise, they're actually going to increase complexity by introducing some sort of DRM-like system that would probably necessitate some sort of wireless connection to phone home (and who's going to pay for that? hint: not the manufacturer). Not to mention the costs to develop and implement such a system. And will any breakdowns be covered under warranty? And, for how long? If I "subscribe" to heated seats, are they going to assume the replacement/repair cost if they break? Do they transfer to a new owner if I sell my car?

        I find this offensive, and that Mini is even considering this has eliminated them permanently from future consideration (not that I'm they're target demographic anyway).

        It seems as though that consumers that choose not to subscribe to a particular feature would be subsidizing those that do. (After all, the feature physically exists in my car). It would seem to counteract this, you'd have to up-charge those that do subscribe to offset the manufacturing cost. Either way, it seems to be a lose-lose situation for the consumer.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <<mojo> <at> <world3.net>> on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:52PM (#46030855) Homepage Journal

      No, this is great! Lots of companies have tried this and someone always figures out a way to enable the extra options for free. I have a DSLR camera, an oscilloscope, a TV, a phone, sat nav and several other devices that have been hacked to enable extra features that the manufacturer wants to charge for.

      Now I'll be able to buy the base model and get the high spec version with a simple software hack!

      • by rhook ( 943951 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @08:30PM (#46031249)

        Sure, until your car reports you for violating your licensing agreement and the DMCA.

        • That might open a whole can of worms. I imagine the interaction between DMCA and Magnusson-Moss Act is pretty ripe for some protracted and expensive litigation (and as usual, I suspect the lawyers will end up th biggest winners from that)

    • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:58PM (#46030931)

      Yes, stupid Idea. Since I own the car, I own everything in the car, including anything I have to hack to make it work.

      I doubt there is legal precedent for this in the consumer market that would survive in court these days, unless they hung
      it on DMCA lockouts of some kind.

      There is legal precedent in the computer industry:

      My university owned a Control Data 3200 computer back in the day.
      They wanted to upgrade it to the next model up, which was a lot faster. They paid a huge price.
      The technician from CDC walked in, yanked 8 cards out of the back and restarted it. It was instantly faster.

      The card were delay lines. Physical devices that slowed down data movement at key places.
      The Data Center director exploded on the spot! The University threatened legal action.
      CDC pointed to contract terms, and the University decided not to peruse it. Computer
      was replaces with IBM gear shortly there after.

      • If cars really do last longer and longer, then the natural reaction for manufacturers will be to sweeten the pot for leases. Then they can do this stuff all day without repercussion, as there's no question about who owns what.
        • by icebike ( 68054 )

          Well, leases really only last three years or so.

          Its very hard for a dealer to re-lease a previously leased car, and they sell most them outright upon the end of the lease.
          Re-Leases are no where near as lucrative as first leases for the dealer, and no where near as attractive to the customer
          because they understand they are buying the problem years.

          In the first three months of 2013, 27.5 percent of all new vehicles were bought with a lease, according to a State of the Automotive Finance Market report by Exper

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by EdIII ( 1114411 )

        This is the stupidest and most pointless idea I've ever heard here. Who writes up stuff like that? I'd like to get paid grant money doing that. I can bullshit about things I've no clue about plenty. I even have a penis, which is like +5 skill modifier for bullshit.

        It cycles. The end result is if you did a whole bunch of effort to monetize the part, and made pretty much what you would have got to sell it outright.

        Car manufacturers would be screwed. Nothing says you can't take a component out of your car and

    • Yeah, Verizon tried to "rent" me GPS capabilities on my phone for 8 years, got exactly $0 for that and a pile of other "optional features" that I never used - finally dumped V for T-Mobile last week (unlimited data for less than V charges for limited data? hell yeah!)

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      "Welcome to Shifty Ackthpt's House o' Cheap Bargain Rate Options, where you can buy to own seats, transmissions, engines, in-vehicle entertainment systems and even Smart Phone connectivity enhancements!

      All constructed of Erector Set or Lego at customer's choice.

    • No bleeping kidding
      that car would be " jail broken " faster than you can say " WTF"

      cracking the DRM on the CAR would be the FIRST #1 job

    • by mellon ( 7048 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @11:42PM (#46032483) Homepage

      Yup. The funny thing about this plan is that it reveals a truth that isn't really in the best interest of the car companies: their car is actually worth quite a bit less than they are charging you for it. They are giving you a car with all the features, but charging you the price of none of them, instead holding them hostage in hopes of future payments. Any fool can see that this means that the price they were charged for the car was much more than they should have had to pay. I predict this strategy will backfire big time.

  • by drdanny_orig ( 585847 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:45PM (#46030767)
    The big winners will be the people who sell crack codes on the black market for just under MSRP. Because automakers' coders are no smarter than any other industries' engineers.
    • Looking at the smartphone market as a historical indicator, people may just publish cracks for free.

      The first question is, does a consumer modified ECM violate the whole warranty for the car? If a side mirror falls off, does the manufacturer have to replace it? What if you modify the tuning of the engine and it throws a rod? There are a number of laws out there regarding aftermarket products for automobiles, but they tend to vary by locale.

      Next question is, if you unlock a feature and bring the vehicle i

      • The first question is, does a consumer modified ECM violate the whole warranty for the car? If a side mirror falls off, does the manufacturer have to replace it? What if you modify the tuning of the engine and it throws a rod? There are a number of laws out there regarding aftermarket products for automobiles, but they tend to vary by locale.

        Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, unless the modification was actually responsible for the issue, the manufacturer can't legally use it as an excuse to void the w

    • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @09:36PM (#46031805)

      someone tried to sell me a crack code for my Jimmy, once.

      ....but I didn't care.

  • Please type in your PIN to activate anti-lock brakes.

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:46PM (#46030773)

    Consumers will buy another brand without these annoyances

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      Consumers will buy another brand without these annoyances

      Right, just like how consumers can switch to a different ISP when they don't like the terms from their current ISP. There's really only a handful of car manufacturers, and if one finds a way to earn more revenue, they'll all follow.

    • by dosius ( 230542 )

      And when every brand does it, then what?

      Competition is for companies trying to screw each other over, collusion is for companies who consider the consumer a common enemy.

    • What happens if a DRM-encrusted, services-oriented, car becomes $1000 cheaper than the vanilla model? You really trust consumers to always pick the latter option?
    • Well maybe not.

      The reason this sort of model works with, say, cellphones is because instead of having to fork out the cost of a new phone, you get it at a substantially reduced price.

      If automakers do this and they don't actually lower the price of the cars, it won't take off.

      But what if instead of paying $20k for a car, you only pay $5k and you "lease" only the features you use?

      Some people (like with phones) will prefer to buy the cars out right. But some people (like with phones) will enjoy the lower mont

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If this happens I will be hacking the shit out of my car.

  • by jo7hs2 ( 884069 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:46PM (#46030779) Homepage
    I'm sorry. Not interested. I don't want to waste fuel carrying around equipment I don't need, much of it will be reporting back on my driving habits, listening habits, and shopping habits. I deliberately picked my car to have as little cruft in it as possible with only the features I wanted. Even that was a huge pain nowadays.
  • If you buy the car, you OWN the car and everything in it right? if you own those heated seats, its not exactly piracy if you enable them. How would they stop that?
    • by jon787 ( 512497 )

      By finally securing the CANbus so that you can't just patch in anywhere and control the car with it.

    • by achbed ( 97139 )

      If you buy the car, you OWN the car and everything in it right? if you own those heated seats, its not exactly piracy if you enable them. How would they stop that?

      They make it only available on leased models, and refuse to "sell" the vehicle. Similar to how they did that with software.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      By buying or crafting their own legislation?

  • And you should feel bad.

    Of course this is just a way of screwing people over.

  • ...always prove to be more expensive than an outright purchase. In addition, why include something you don't use and then have to pay the gas to lug it around? No thanks.
  • by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:47PM (#46030801) Journal

    ugh...I hate this

    everywhere you look today, people want to make you pay a monthly fee for something that used to be free...or make you pay separately for something that used to be included in the main price but not lower the main price & call it 'al la carte'

    it's marketing idiots who spend their work days trying to make products with **LESS** features

    • Something I thought was pretty hilarious on our '99 Dodge Ram was the "base model" analog speedometer. In 1999, digital dash was selling for a couple hundred $$$ premium, but, in reality, the Analog dash cost more to make - the analog needle is actually driven by a digital signal on the bus, and it increments in whole mile per hour steps, so you can be doing 69.49 MPH, and when you edge up to 69.51 MPH the needle jumps from 69 to 70 - then when you slow back down to 69.49, it will jump back to 69.

      Same kind

  • > or are consumers going to just get screwed in the long run?" Yes is my first thought on that one.
  • by Z34107 ( 925136 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:50PM (#46030837)

    This could, in theory, work out if producing a single model with all the features saves money over manufacturing every permutation of radio/seats/trim/etc. The high-end would cost less, while still allowing more spartan options for those who want to save money.

    In practice, I suspect it's a way to jack up the cost of new vehicles and turn every "sale" into a rental. Not sure if this will help or hurt dealerships--if all the options are already in the car, how will the middlemen get their cut of the value-adds?

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      On the other hand, if they can afford to build those features into every car PLUS the cost of making them remote activated and still make a profit on the car, only a failure of the free market would allow them to not enable all of those features all the time for free.

      • by Z34107 ( 925136 )

        ...MINUS the cost of having n-many manufacturing lines and trim options. Which, like I said, would have to be significant to make the "in theory" option believable.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Even then, a healthy market would require turning all of the features on permanently. Otherwise, another manufacturer that did just that would kill them on value for price.

          Of course, many (perhaps most) markets are unhealthy these days.

          • by Z34107 ( 925136 )

            Well, that's what makes it interesting. Nobody objects to selling a high-end model for a high price, and a low-end model for a low price. Under highly idealized circumstances, feature-keying would let us sell both models for less due to savings in manufacturing and supply chain complexity. Isn't that cost reduction a healthy sign, even if both cars are the same underneath and we've converted tangible, physical differences into pure price discrimination?

            But, like you said, feature-keying implies it's stil

  • by AaronW ( 33736 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:52PM (#46030863) Homepage

    With the Tesla model S the supercharger feature is optional with the 60KWh battery and can be enabled at any time by an over-the-air update but is a $2,000 feature, presumably to help offset the cost of electricity and building out the Supercharger network. The hardware is installed in every car.

  • . . . to the YouTube videos showing how to hack these features.

    What I want to know is why there are no heated steering wheels? My hands get damn cold.

  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @07:52PM (#46030869) Homepage

    For software, the marginal cost of distributing the extra features disabled is pretty close to zero. It's all just bits being copied.

    For a car, the car maker is still paying for the seat heaters, still paying factory workers to install those heaters, but not always being paid back by the end-user. Makes no sense.

    And as a consumer, I want a simple and reliable car. I don't want my seat heaters to have a "DRM AUTHORIZATION FAILURE" error message and refuse to work when I need them.

    • For a car, the car maker is still paying for the seat heaters, still paying factory workers to install those heaters, but not always being paid back by the end-user. Makes no sense.

      There are a lot of costs involved in having more build options for any product. This could offset the cost of building everything to the highest spec for many options.

  • ...will I be charged with circumventing security & have my car towed away?
    • Since the cars will also be connected to the internet and each other, the **AAs that'll lead that charge will file a trumped-up charge that you tried to spread malware and cause a highway pileup. Your car will be towed and you'll be in solitary for Conspiracy To Commit Mass Vehicular Manslaughter, Threatening National Security, Copying Floppies, and Disorderly Conduct.

  • anyone with any mind at all would be able to turn the features on. there is no reason for a manufacturer to pay for the parts and put them in if people are not going to pay for them.
  • I can understand the concept of having unlockable/upgradable software. whether that is engine mapping programs or entertainment features. How can they possibly justify the additional cost of actual hardware for a car that may never activate it? Presumably with this business model, every car would have every single hardware feature on it which would add considerable cost to the base vehicle.
  • IBM used to do this: you could pay different prices for different clock speeds; if you paid for an upgrade the technician would arrive and remove the "slow down" jumper.

    Oddly enough people felt ripped off by this. Who'da thunk it?

  • If something like this happens, there will be workarounds, but due to 'safety concerns' promoted by the automakers, cars using such firmware will be illegal.

  • by sandbagger ( 654585 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @08:02PM (#46030971)

    Absolutely not. Why? For the same reason I'll never upgrade to Adobe Creative Cloud from CS 6. I don't want to be held ransom.

  • by Algae_94 ( 2017070 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @08:05PM (#46031027) Journal
    The link about MINI is suggesting they might make available DIY trim upgrades. Not trim level of the car, but the physical trim in the cabin. Think cell phones with replacable colored backplates. Absolutely nothing like TFS suggests.
  • I think most people will find the idea of owning a car that has features they can't use without paying monthly for completely asinine; to say nothing of the big brother implications. Ideas like this are thought up by people with big dollar signs in their eyes, rather than the consumer in mind; despite what they may claim.
  • That is my main concern. As far as I'm concerned, if I have purchased a product, I am free to modify it as I see fit. Will they try to push for legislation to make it illegal for me to modify my car to enable those seat warmers they gave me but didn't collect from me? Will we no longer own our cars but only be licensed to use our cars?
  • Of course the consumer will get screwed. Car companies aren't in it to lose money.

  • "...or are consumers going to just get screwed in the long run?"

    I can see it now:

    Me: It is cold and those heated seats would be nice now. Maybe I can just pay a monthly rate during the winter.

    Car Company: I'm sorry but that option requires a 1 year contract.

  • Do NOT give them ideas. It is bad enough that you need to pick your car carefully as to ensure aftermarket parts, because any "car maker only" part is exorbitantly priced. Rent options ? A car is an appliance...
  • by JDG1980 ( 2438906 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @08:46PM (#46031377)

    With features that are cheap enough to add, this sometimes happens already. My 2010 Honda Fit base model, for instance, did not come with a remote lock/unlock feature from the factory. You can buy the "keyless entry system" from the dealer for about $150. What does it consist of? A key with the remote control features in it. That's all. The solenoids for locking and unlocking the doors are already there, they just aren't used. I was able to get it working for much less by buying a blank key from an online shop, following the directions to sync up the remote, and having it cut to fit at the local shop.

    But, as others have noted, there are limits on the extent of this kind of practice. Shipping extra bits with a software package costs basically nothing, Shipping extra hardware in a car can get expensive quickly. They have to balance whether it costs less to ship all vehicles the same (economy of scale) or whether it would save money to leave a feature physically omitted from base trims. Then they have to decide whether they will get more money by including it for everyone (and thus using it as a selling point to drum up volume) or by charging it as an add-on.

    If they get too greedy, then yes, buyers will just hack the car (or have someone else do it) to enable the missing features. As noted, this already happens sometimes. I wouldn't exactly call buying a key and following the official factory sync process a "hack", but it worked and it saved me some money.

  • by CrazyDuke ( 529195 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @09:03PM (#46031517)

    ...a used car that is governed to 25 MPH and can only make left turns because basic functionality has to be enabled via $50,000 DLC that was only included with the initial purchase.

"There are things that are so serious that you can only joke about them" - Heisenberg