Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) remotely removed autopilot features from a customer's car without their knowledge because the automaker judged that the user had not paid for them, Jalopnik reported Thursday.
According to Jalopnik, a customer, which it called Alec, purchased a used 2017 Tesla Model S car from a third-party dealer on December 20 last year. The dealer had purchased the car directly from Tesla through an auction on November 15.
The documents reviewed by Jalopnik showed that the dealer had paid for "Enhanced Autopilot" and "Full Self Driving Capability" features, worth $8000, when he purchased the car.
Alec was under the impression that the cars had these features when he purchased them, because they were advertised as such by the dealer. Noticing the features missing, he contacted Tesla's customer support.
Tesla informed him that the functions were removed on November 18 that year, as an internal audit by the company found that "the customer did not purchase the software," Jalopnik reported.
On further contact, Tesla told Alec that the company has "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," Tesla customer support told Alec, according to Jalopnik.
"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."
Why It Matters
The driving assistance features in Tesla are a one-time purchase and not based on a subscription model. The features aren't to be renewed when a Tesla vehicle is resold.
According to The Verge, Tesla taking a unilateral decision to roll-back a feature from a car that it no longer owns sets a bad precedent.
Jalopnik noted that if an automaker had a physical feature from a car removed in such a manner, it may even have amounted to "theft."
Tesla has thus far used the over-the-air software upgrades to roll out new features, and not take back key features that it judged the users not to have paid for.
Tesla's stock closed 1.94% higher at $748.96 on Thursday. The shares traded 1.06% lower at $741 in the after-hours market.