Tesla deters owners from hacking car performance

The car maker fires warning shots across the bows of third parties offering performance-boosting features.
Written by Daphne Leprince-Ringuet, Contributor

Tesla is putting a spoke in the wheels of some of its customers who might be tempted to use cheaper services from third parties to boost the performance of their vehicle, instead of buying car features directly from the manufacturer.

The latest software update to the Tesla Model 3 effectively left some owners who use the Boost50 module facing an "incompatible vehicle modification detected" warning, along with a "potential risk of damage or shutdown".

Produced by Canadian company Ingenext, the Boost50 increases the performance of the Tesla Model 3 Dual. Plugged into the vehicle, the device reduces acceleration time from 0 to 100 km/h to 3.8 seconds, down from 4.4 seconds. The Boost50 also includes some other features such as drift mode – a special driving mode that disables traction control but maintains ABS and power steering.

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After upgrading their vehicle to Tesla's 2020.32 software, Boost50 buyers took to Reddit to report that the carmaker was thwarting the Ingenext feature (via Electrek). The freeze, however, doesn't seem to impede driving.

Tesla offers its own official "Acceleration Boost" for the Model 3 Dual Motor. Released last year, the feature is a $2,000 software upgrade that reduces acceleration time from 0 to 100 km/h to 3.9 seconds.

The Boost50 module offered by Ingenext, on the other hand, is priced at $1,433. It's easy to see, therefore, why the offer might appeal to some Tesla owners.

Those who take up the "unofficial" module, however, do so at their own risk. It's likely that with every software update, Tesla will attempt to patch the hack and disable third-party features, to encourage owners to take up the carmaker's own products.

In fact, Ingenext has a dedicated page to let customers know whether using Boost50 is safe on different Tesla updates. The page currently recommends waiting for confirmation that update 2020.32 is safe before installing the module.

It's only a matter of time, however, before Ingenext's technicians figure out how to counter the update with their own patch.

It remains to be seen whether customers will keep opting for cheaper, but slightly less reliable, modules provided by third parties, or choose to buy the more expensive features officially offered by Tesla with every software upgrade.

Acceleration isn't the only service that Tesla is providing as a paid-for option. The company also offers Full Self-Driving (FSD) as an $8,000 package, a 14% rise compared to previous pricing, which Musk anticipates will continue to increase as the software gets closer to full self-driving capability.

Tesla isn't the only carmaker eyeing add-on vehicle features in the form of software services that customers could pay to enable. BMW recently announced a similar offering, with options such as cruise control, automatic high-beams and even heated seats to be paid for as separate features, on top of the car itself.

BMW's scheme is subscription-based: customers will pay for a subscription on different options – so, for example, their cars could be fitted with heated seats only when necessary in the winter months.

SEE: Tesla's Elon Musk: Our fully autonomous cars are now 'very close'

In a similar vein, Musk recently confirmed that Autopilot will eventually be offered as a subscription.

This "vehicle-as-a-platform" concept has been received with mixed feelings, with customers complaining that they are now required to pay for basic services that should be enabled by default. 

Last year, for example, BMW started charging for limited-time access to Apple CarPlay. After 12 months free, the company introduced a $100 yearly subscription to let customers synchronise their iPhone with CarPlay, before quickly scrapping the programme in the face of a customer backlash.

There's a fine line between offering innovative services that should be paid for, and frustrating loyal customers. In the game of hide-and-seek currently playing out between Tesla and Ingenext, there's no clear winner yet.

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