One of the neat things about “connected” things is they can be disconnected – and not by you. Rendering them useless to you and (best part) making you perpetually beholden to whomever (whatever) has control over the “connectivity.”
A lesson – and a warning – comes in the form of the pending disconnect of the 3G wireless network, which will among other things result in the disconnection of 3G “connected” services millions of car owners paid for when they bought their cars, such as remote engine start/door unlock, roadside assistance/emergency crash response and even GPS (navigation). These wireless features depend on “connectivity” – the ability to send and receive data wirelessly.
“We’re talking about millions of vehicles that will lose features that were promised to owners, and that no longer will be delivered,” said William Wallace of Consumer Reports. “In some cases, those features are safety features, things that can help them from dying or getting seriously injured after a crash.”
What was it the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” said?
No soup for you!
Several interesting things come to mind that people who own a modern car with any form of “connectivity” might want to consider.
The first is this business of features your car came with and which you presumably thought were yours because you paid for them being summarily unplugged and rendered useless. People expect that over time, their car might and probably will need to have various parts repaired or replaced; things inevitably wear out and stop working. But this business is qualitatively different as there is nothing wrong, per se, with the “connected” systems in these older cars.
They are simply being (effectively) turned off, en masse.
There is nothing analogous with unconnected, mechanical components. GM cannot render the power windows or any other functional piece of equipment my 1976 Trans-Am came equipped with inert because GM (or some other corporation) doesn’t have any way to do that. The guy who bought my car when it was new back in ’76 checked off various options – such as power windows – and paid for them. Having paid for them, they were his legal property and no longer GM’s.
When I bought the car, I paid for – and own – everything it came with, in addition to the car itself.
With “connected” systems, you are the end user – and when you bought the car (new) part of the paperwork included the EULA, the End User License Agreement. You agreed to pay for that which you do not legally own; i.e., the “connected” features you paid to use – for however long the provider of the “connected” services wishes to provide them, under the terms and conditions buried in the EULA.
The same kind of surprise people who bought used Teslas got when they discovered that some of the features they thought they’d bought when they bought the car – because the car had various options when the original owner bought it – weren’t working because they hadn’t paid (a second time) for these options.
Tesla would graciously agree to turn them on again – wirelessly – if the new owner ponied up for what the original owner already had.
This same thing can happen in principle with any “connected” system in any “connected” car. Which encompasses pretty much every car made since the early-mid 2000s and some that go back to the mid-‘90s (such as GM’s OnStar-equipped vehicles). It is true, of course, that it’s not the car companies who are turning off the 3G network, but it’s a distinction without much difference. The end result is that if your car has 3G-dependent systems, those systems will soon brick.
But you got what you paid for. Which was a service rather than something tangible. Be aware of this fact going forward, because 4G is next, inevitably. And – at some point – 5G is going to be what 3G is right now. An out-of-date technology that will be retired in favor of a new technology.
How long do you suppose that will be from now? Five years? Ten?
That brings us to the other thing about this business, which is that it is really good business for those who control all this “connected” technology. Which they can obsolete at will – and legally, too.
Which serves to render the “device” the technology is enmeshed within – that would be your car – obsolete, too. In the manner of a no-longer-supported 3G sail fawn. You still have the physical phone – but it’s functionally useless, being “no longer supported.”
The newer the car, the more susceptible the car. Especially electric cars, which are the most “connected” cars of all.
It’s really quite clever. First, sell you people something they get to use – but don’t really own. Get people to pay – again – in order to continue using what they (or someone else) already paid for, once.
Then, when you want them to buy something new, render what’s old useless.
You might want to give that some thought before signing the EULA that comes with the “purchase” of your next new car – which in a very real way will always be someone else’s car.
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