“Unlocking” What You “Own”

  • October 1, 2023

It used to be that when you bought a car, it was yours.

It’s now theirs – even if you paid for it.

All made possible by the transitioning of cars into battery-powered devices, just like a cell phones. And just the same way.

For instance, the Lyriq, a device sold by Cadillac. You can pay – again – to “unlock” 74 ft.-lbs. more torque from the electric drivetrain you thought you already bought. That torque wasn’t actually added, of course. It was there when you thought-you-bought the device. But Cadillac wants another $1,200 to let you have what you thought-you’d-already bought.

This is the subscription based model of what will no longer be car ownership, going forward.

It was pioneered by Bill Gates and emulated by Elon Musk’s Tesla grift, which was the first device manufacturer to assert ownership over what it had already sold, just as Gates asserted ownership in-perpetuity over the code people thought they’d bought (never mind the dubiety of his own ownership claims).

People who thought-they’d-bought Teslas discovered this when they sold what they thought were their cars, having paid for them – via angry new not-really-owners, who discovered after they’d bought what-they-thought-they-were-buying that some of the features they’d-thought-they’d-bought weren’t working. But it wasn’t because they weren’t working. It was because Tesla had turned off these features – such as the vaunted self-driving feature. If the new owner wanted what he’d assumed the car had – because that’s what the device  came with (and that’s how it was advertised) he’d have to pay Tesla to “unlock” the feature.

And not just once.

The idea is to keep you paying – irrespective of the car payments themselves. The car’s features will cost you, ongoing, if you want to be able to use them.

Other car companies saw and drooled. Here is an opportunity to keep a buyer paying for as long as he doesn’t-actually-own-the-car, which turns out to be as long as he remains in possession of it. BMW explored charging people who thought-they’d-bought a car with heated seats. They did. But the heated seats would only work – or continue working – if the “owner” subscribed to them.

Cadillac is doing the same.

The others will, too.

And – just like the “fast” chargers that entail waiting much longer to accomplish what can be accomplished much sooner at the pump – this is being marketed as an improvement. Something to be excited rather than angry about. The tools over at Jalopnik, for instance, make it sound as though people are getting something rather than paying for them. They entirely miss the point that people already paid for them.

Or so they thought.

In fact what they bought is someone else’s – some corporation’s – tool. A device that they can use but that can be remotely altered by the corporation that made it. The $1,200 “upgrade” to the Lyriq device may be something some buyers want to pay for. But didn’t they already pay for it when they bought the device? Cadillac is not sending anything over-the-air except code. To “unlock” what is already there. It is not the same as it was when if you wanted more horsepower out of a car, you went out and bought a free-flowing air intake system or exhaust and physically added these to your car.  The one you actually owned once you’d paid for it – along with whatever parts you bought later and added to it. These were yours too once you’d bought them. You did not have to pay a subscription to keep them working, either.

How long before the power windows stop working if you decide not to subscribe to them?

In most new cars, the radio already works that way. If you want to keep the SiriusXM subscription going. And take note of the fact that a number of new EVs are deleting AM radio reception capability – ostensibly on account of electromagnetic interference emanating from the device’s high-voltage battery/motor. FM will probably be next, giving a new meaning to pay-to-play.

There is more than just the greedhead angle here, too.

Consider that anything that can be turned on can also be turned off.

Tesla (again) gave us a sneak-peak but most people didn’t see what they ought to have when the EV device-maker benevolently sent an “update” – for free! – that “unlocked” more range than Tesla owners thought-they’d-bought, so as to enable them to have enough to escape the hurricane that was bearing down on Florida.

This was taken as an act of great benevolence.

But only a fool believes in “free” without a price.

The price is the power  to lock what can be unlocked. To lock it down altogether. If Tesla can send an over-the-air update allowing the device it controls that people think they own to travel farther, then Tesla can also send an update to prevent it from traveling at all.

That’s what people bought when they thought they’d paid-for their Teslas. It will be just the same for all the other devices, which are the same as Teslas since they are all essentially the same things in different shapes and colors, just like the smartphones they emulate.

You’ll pay to use – and they’ll allow you to use – so long as you pay.

And provided you obey.

That’s what you’re buying into when you buy one of these devices.

. . .

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