One of the interesting things about modern electric cars is their ability to be modified relatively easily, via software. Tesla, of course, understands this and takes full advantage of it by offering things like an “Acceleration Boost,” a $US2,000 ($2,789) option for dual-motor Model 3s that unlocks an extra 37 kW and shaves an extra half second off the 0 to 100 km/h time so you can get to highway speeds in under four seconds. Because people exist who want that but don’t want to drop two grand, third party companies offered their own, cheaper solutions — but now, a Tesla update seems to be targeting these aftermarket hacks.
Over on the TeslaModel3 Reddit forum (also reported by Electrek) Model 3 owners who have saved $800 and purchased the $US1,433 ($1,998) Ingenext Boost 50 module instead of Tesla’s official upgrade have reported seeing this dialog box on their dash LCD display:
The dialog box warning reads Incompatible vehicle modification detected, and while it does not seem to affect the driving abilities of the car, the dialog box can’t be dismissed from the display.
Interestingly, Ingenext’s website for the Boost 50 does clearly state that access to Tesla’s firmware updates will still be available:
…which suggests that they didn’t anticipate Tesla would at some point attempt to incorporate software that checks for these sorts of things? That strikes me as odd.
I’m absolutely in favour of people being able to modify cars they own as they please, no question, but I do realise that Tesla, like many other companies, does not share this belief, which is why I’m not terribly surprised to see this happen.
As you can guess, Ingenext is working on a software patch to correct this, and that likely means Tesla will be working on another update to defeat that patch, and back and forth and back and forth until the heat death of the universe.
While I believe cars should be hackable by their owners, I can’t fault Tesla for deciding to revoke warranty coverage on modified vehicles — that’s pretty standard in the industry — and f they’re not disabling the cars from driving, I suppose they’re free to throw up pissy messages in dialog boxes all they like.
Hacking is always going to involve risk and consequences. While I’d love to see Tesla embrace a robust and safe hacking and modification community, I’m not going to hold my breath, not while they stand to make so much more money being the sole provider of upgrades to their platforms.
No matter what happens, I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing lots more situations like this coming in the future.