Sep 15 2022

Software as a Service Is Coming to Your Car

Subscription-based services are being offered in new and unexpected areas, including automotive features.

If you thought everything that could be offered via subscription is already being offered that way, think again: Your car might be the next place where companies try to get consumers to pay monthly fees, and we’re not talking about satellite radio.

In parts of Europe and elsewhere, but not yet in the U.S., luxury automaker BMW has begun offering a monthly pay model for everything from heated seats and steering wheels to entertainment options and safety features, such as High Beam Assistant, which switches the headlights to high beams automatically when necessary.

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BMW owners can pay about $12 a month for a heated steering wheel and $18 for heated seats, according to The Verge. There are also options to unlock features for a flat, one-time fee. Of course, the cars are built with the needed components to provide the features, but BMW has added a software block that owners must pay to remove.

That rankles some, who say it’s not right to charge a subscription price to use features that the cars already possess; BMW says its customers could have ordered such options when they bought their cars and are now getting another chance. “This functionality is particularly useful for secondary owners, as they now have the opportunity to add features which the original owner did not choose,” the company tells Wired.

If the concept proves successful for BMW, look for other automakers to follow suit — and for the inevitable cottage industry of hackers happy to let owners pay them to illegally unlock features for a (presumably lower) fee.

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