Tesla's demon-haunted cars in Irma's path get a temporary battery-life boost

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/09/10/iron-man-is-a-dick.html


I remember at university when we realised that the single-sided (and cheaper) 5.25" floppies were exactly the same as the double sided ($$) discs. All we had to do was cut the little write-protect notch with a pair of scissors to get them to work on the other side. Then buy beer with money we saved.


I remember something like this occurs with farmer’s equipment. The big machines are crippled with software, and it’s illegal to circumvent it, even when it’s no longer sold and fixable any other way?


Nice one, Elon.

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Tesla is the new Volkswagen.


I’m in mining, and mining equipment is the same. Proprietary manufacturer’s computer systems run the equipment and collect all the very valuable data. The manufacturer sells different levels of access as options on top of the equipment price. The service they want you to buy is full ongoing OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) monitoring, analysis and maintenance. This can be very expensive, but you get access to considerable expertise and experience. Time is big money with this gear, and anything that can improve the availability and/or productivity of key equipment is pretty valuable.

After-market companies do hack the code and sell third party services, but other than accessing data for analysis, any intervention in the operating parameters will result in a fight over warranty if something goes wrong.


I know it’s fun to shake our fists at the big companies and call them evil, but consider just for a moment that they had a non-evil reason to do this.

The 75KWh battery pack found in these cars is one part that Tesla has to make. It’s the most difficult part of making an electric car work. Tesla could have developed two different packs. That would have required extra design and testing work. It would have had a different weight and balance–making the cars behave differently. That may have required it to undergo separate safety testing with the NHTSA.

Or, they could reuse the higher capacity pack and software limit it to 60KWh. There are benefits to this for both the purchaser and for Tesla. For one, it costs the customer less. That’s a clear benefit to the customer. Secondly, lithium batteries live longer when they aren’t charged all the way and when they aren’t discharged all the way. Many Tesla owners go to great lenghts to treat the batteries in their cars carefully to maximize their life. The 60KWh Tesla owners don’t have to worry like the 75KWh owners do–their car already maintains this for them. This also had a benefit for Tesla–fewer battery failures and a longer product life.

There’s the possibility that Tesla did this not because they are evil, but for actual practical technical reasons.


I recall a story, I don’t recall where I read it, that back in the day when the machines that International Business Machines sold were mechanical, there were two models of a particular calculator or computer or whatever it was: the ordinary and the more expensive ‘enhanced’ version, which ran twice as fast.

If you had the cheaper version, then for a hefty fee IBM would send an engineer out to your location, who would spend several hours upgrading it to the faster version. Because, you see, the warranty was voided if customers attempted any modification themselves. And, of course, the insides of an IBM were a proprietary secret, so no-one could observe the mechanic at his job. It later turned out that the upgrade consisted of taking the cover off and moving a belt from one axle to another.


We used hole punches to nibble out a duplicate notch (yea our school had ‘the classroom of 2000’ but at the same time we had a LOT of Apple IIe’s for a long while even in the 90’s, and I actually have fond memories of those things.) Really annoyed that I only found the interesting software AFTER the school surplussed the whole lot of 'em. I wanted to play captain blood dammit.

Anyway, this is surprisingly like an approach I took when writing a game scenario, or rather the world doc files I tended to include in each level on a specific node for people that wanted to read a bit. To justify how you could buy system upgrades for everything from CPU, Ram, and even your connection I handwaved it y ‘combination of manufacturer disabling hardware components on things that were just barely out of spec’ to ‘paying the telco off so you could uncap modem speeds.’

Here I thought I’d been bullshitting the whole time. Then again maybe Tesla downgraded the battery packs/told the battery’s firmware to limit their max charge because they’re ‘good’ but fall just outside of spec to the higher capacity version, so rate them at a safer lower capacity they are KNOWN to be good for instead of trying to constantly push. Now? Now would be an emergency situation where the potential risk of a unit dying in a year or a month is immaterial in the face of ‘Damned the consequences, we need it to last today.


“that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe”

Dominion might just be some idealistic phantasm.

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“Tesla says it reduced cost across its fleet by haunting its cars with demons.”

Haunted by demons running as daemons?


This may be the case. In the case of processors, many come off the same production line and are graded in test to decide speed and features, while it is possible to overclock or turn on other features, there is no guarantee that the added features will work.


Nope, that’s not it. If you bought the 60 kwh battery you could pay a fee any time after you bought the car and have the extra 15kwh unlocked. They’ve abandoned that strategy (AFAIK), perhaps due to some criticism, and also as the price of battery packs fell, thus perhaps making the 75 kwh battery suitable for “entry-level” buyers.

They currently sell all cars equipped with autopilot and self driving hardware that (if you didn’t originally spec it) can be activated later by paying a (substantial) fee. The activation is essentially costless to Tesla so it’s non-inclusion in the original price is really the same as the non-inclusion of the extra 15 kwh battery activation firmware version.

In some ways, this analogous to selling software-only products generally where copies of the product cost ~nothing to make, yet are sold at significant prices.


To me - it sounds like saying that this is our small hamburger.


Not quite. They still give you the whole hamburger, but you’re not allowed to eat the last bit until you pay an extra fee.


I can’t wait to eat at that restaurant


The software analogy is a good one. It would also cost Microsoft virtually nothing to install Windows on your new computer, yet you have to pay for it because that’s just the way they make the money they need to stay afloat.

On the other hand, there is still an inherent shitty smell around sabotaging a mechanical product just to create a price-discrimination scenario. I think it has to do with the complete lack of connection to production costs (- “So you could sell the 75kWh to me for the same price but you chose to make it arbitrarily more expensive instead” - “Yeah, we could sell it to you individually but we can’t actually do that for all customers because the premium on the 75 effectively subsidizes the price of the 60.”).


(smiles, shuts off PC, heads out to make my weekly shopping trip in my 1996 Nissan with exactly nothing that can be fucked with unless I manually open the hood)


no torch, no pitchfork? you’re no fun! :wink:


Is longer product life in Teslas interest?