Tesla yanks Autopilot features from used car because 'they weren't paid for'

Should Tesla be allowed to remove features from a vehicle that's bought secondhand?

Tesla often boasts it can deliver features to its cars via a software update, but some owners are complaining it's taking features away too. 

Auto news site Jalopnik details the experience of one buyer of a used 2017 Tesla Model S who experienced just this after purchasing it from a third-party dealer in late 2019. 

The vehicle was sold with Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self Driving enabled, which were listed as part of the car's additional features. The features functioned in the car after it was bought, but, according to Jalopnik, a software update in December disabled Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self Driving.     

The actual complaint to Tesla from the owner was about the removal of the Summon feature, which requires Full Self Driving to function. 

SEE: Sensor'd enterprise: IoT, ML, and big data (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

The vehicle was originally sold by Tesla to the car dealer at an auction. Tesla sold it at an auction because the dashboard screen was suffering from a yellow border. 

According to the report, it was sold by Tesla as having Summon enabled. After the driver installed an update in December that removed the features, he was told by Tesla support that in mid-November Tesla conducted an audit for vehicles where Autopilot had not been paid for. The new owner's Tesla was one of them, so the feature was removed.   

The incident illustrates one of the additional uncertainties that comes with buying a used Tesla, or any other car for that matter, which can have features added or removed via a software update. 

This example appears to suggest that Tesla has tied the capability to the driver rather than the vehicle, which should retain whatever features it was sold with. 

The owner also reportedly asked a Tesla used vehicle sales adviser to see if Autopilot and Full Self Driving could be removed from a used vehicle under the pretense that he wanted to save some money. He says he was told by the adviser that if it is added, Tesla will not remove it. 

SEE: Elon Musk's mind-reading technology could be about to take a big leap forward

Tesla enthusiast user forums are also filled with complaints about Tesla removing Full Self Driving. In some cases, where users could provide an invoice showing the feature was purchased, the company did reinstall it. 

ZDNet has asked Tesla for a comment and will update the story if it receives a response.

UPDATE February 14: The owner of the Tesla in question says the company has restored all the missing software options. He said a Tesla customer experience representative had apologized, blaming the incident on a miscommunication. 

More on Tesla, artificial intelligence, and self-driving cars

  • US looks into over 100 complaints of Tesla cars suddenly accelerating and crashing  
  • New fatal Tesla crash: US road traffic regulator probes possible Autopilot link  
  • Elon Musk reveals Tesla's electric Cybertruck and smashes its windows  
  • Tesla's new Smart Summon: Here's why it has no place in public parking lots
  • Elon Musk: Older Tesla cars set for full self-driving chip upgrade in Q4  
  • Elon Musk on Tesla's Autopilot: In a year, 'a human intervening will decrease safety'
  • Fatal Tesla crash: Car was on Autopilot when it hit truck, say investigators
  • Elon Musk's new Tesla: Self-driving Model Y SUV out in 2020 from $47,000
  • Elon Musk: $35,000 Tesla Model 3 arrives but job cuts coming as sales shift online
  • Tesla starts to release its cars' open-source Linux software code
  • Tesla fatal crash: Parents of dead teen sue over alleged faulty battery
  • New NTSB Tesla fatal crash report: Model S battery reignited twice after Florida crash
  • NTSB's Tesla fatal crash report: Autopilot sped up, no braking in final seconds
  • Tesla Model S allegedly in Autopilot hits parked police car
  • Elon Musk: Tesla Autopilot gets full self-driving features in August update
  • Tesla's Autopilot: Cheat sheet TechRepublic
  • Tesla to close retail stores, only sell cars online CNET