Jailbreaking used Teslas picks up as firm removes paid-for features remotely

After Tesla refuses to pay any heed to user complaints, many turn to hackers and jailbreaks

Tesla buyers, who are tired of complaining about the company’s software update revoking features they have availed for years now, are now turning to hacking or jailbreaking to get the features promised.

While purchasing a Tesla, buyers can choose multiple packages ranging from $8000 to $20,000. Despite this, many have complained of removal of features once the software is updated. Tesla often replies saying buyers didn’t purchase the software, although many claim they do.

Looking at the issues, many people have turned to jailbreaking the software. “If the car originally had supercharging when sold, and has no HV [high voltage] safety issues, I turn it back on. If it had paid supercharging, I restore that. I have done this with around 600 cars for hapless owners all over the globe,” Phil Sadow, an independent Tesla repairer told Vice.

Usually, the cost of repairing a Tesla or re-purchasing its software is as high as a brand new car. That’s also why insurance companies declare damaged Teslas as a total loss. Once this happens, Tesla stops all support for the vehicle and voids its warranty. It also stops Supercharger, one of the most important features of Tesla cars and without it the car becomes redundant.

YouTube too has multiple videos on jailbreaking these salvaged Teslas. Once jailbroken, the software voids warranty. But once a car is salvaged or reaches a “total loss” stage, it voids warranty anyway. “We have saved thousands of cars from the scrap heap and put them back on the road. That’s the only green thing to do!” Sadow told Vice on how Tesla nullifying cars is not very environment friendly.

Another example that made headlines: In November 2019, a person bought a 2017 Tesla from a third party dealer. The dealer had bought the car directly from their ownership, under the California Lemon Law buyback at a Tesla auction for used cars. Just a few months after the user purchased the car from the dealer, its Full Self Driving Capability features underwent a software update. After this, they became void. The entire autopilot feature costs around $8000 and was remotely removed by Tesla. Tesla said they would have to pay $8000 again to get the feature back.

Multiple users have taken to blogs or online communites commenting on how Tesla disabling features on purchased cars should be declared illegal. In most cases, Tesla does not inform buyers that their software will become invalid months after the purchase.

These “audits” are done after the purchase and these features do not work through subscriptions, rather through a one-time purchase of the car which is supposed to inhabit all updates of the future.


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