Tesla accused of remotely removing Autopilot from second-hand car

Tesla has been accused of removing £6,000 ($8,000) worth of driver aid functions from a car after it was sold on the second-hand market.

The electric car maker remotely disabled two driver aid functions - Enhanced Autopilot and so-called Full Self Driving capability (FSD) - after the car had changed hands, despite advertising it as having the features.

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According to Jalopnik, Tesla sold the already second-hand 2017 Model S to a third-party dealer at auction on November 15 last year with both functions listed in its configuration. That dealer then sold it on to a private customer - identified as Alec - who discovered in December that the features had been disabled.

When asked why the functions had stopped working Tesla told Alec that following a remote audit of the car’s functions on November 18 - after it had sold the car to the third-party dealer - it had been determined that “the customer did not purchase the software”.

The car’s Monroney sticker - which details the car’s specification at the time of sale - showed the functions as being fitted, photographs taken by the dealer show them active on the car’s system before the software update and the dealer himself said he used the function before selling the car on.

Incorrectly configured

Responding to Alec’s complaint that the systems had stopped functioning, Tesla confirmed that it had disabled the Autopilot and FSD systems via the car's internet connection.

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It said: “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.”

Tesla's Autopilot driver aid features adaptive cruise control and lane change assistance (Photo: Shutterstock)

Alec then contacted a Tesla used vehicle sales adviser to ask if such features could be disabled to help bring down the cost of a second-hand vehicle. He was told: “If it’s added and it is a used car they just simply will not remove it.”

The dealer who sold the car to Alec claimed a similar thing happened to his father-in-law whose Model X had its “Ludicrous” mode disabled remotely after purchase. And Jalonik reports that there are multiple other instances discussed on Tesla owners’ forums.

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Tesla is able to activate and update many of its cars’ features over the air via software updates, allowing customers to buy upgrades not selected at the time of purchase, including unlocking more advanced driver aids and increasing a car’s power. However, it is also able to deactivate or delete functions, raising questions over how much control it retains over cars after they have been sold.

Tesla has so far declined to comment on the issue.

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