The future of smart driving mostly seems like a dream come true. Cars will run clean electricity instead of fossil fuels, receive regular updates over the internet, and (eventually) drive themselves around. Many drivers can’t wait for that reality to be the norm. However, those technology advancements come with a disappointing downside too.

A recent story from Jalopnik details how a customer named Alec purchased a used Tesla with Autopilot and Full Self Driving (FSD) features. However, those options vanished when the car updated its software a month later. Imagine paying for a car with a certain set of features, only for them to simply disappear one day. Alec was obviously confused. And a little angry.

The car was originally sold at auction to a dealer, as part of a California Lemon Law buyback program. The center-stack screen developed a yellow border, which is a known issue for some Tesla models. The dealer, in turn, sold the car to Alec based on the features it came with at the time of purchase.

Here’s the concise summary from Jalopnik:

“Let’s recap a little bit at this point: A Model S with Enhanced Autopilot (which includes the Summon feature) and FSD “capability” is sold at auction, a dealer buys it, after the sale to the dealer Tesla checks in on the car and decides that it shouldn’t have Autopilot or FSD “capability,” dealer sells car to customer based on the specifications they were aware the car had (and were shown on the window sticker, and confirmed via a screenshot from the car’s display showing the options), and later, when the customer upgrades the car’s software, Autopilot and FSD disappear.”

Frankly, this feels more than a little shady. It feels like outright theft.

So Now What?

Alec contacted Tesla support about the problem. However, they simply claimed that he didn’t directly pay for the Autopilot or FSD features, his car wasn’t entitled to have them activated. The two options are worth $8,000 on a new Tesla. They did offer to let him pay for those features again, if he desired. Of course, it should be argued that he already paid for those features once when he bought the car originally.

For the sake of an argument, Alec emailed Tesla about buying a different used model. He then asked whether the Autopilot and FSD features could be removed in order to lower the price of a model he feigned interest in. Tesla promptly replied that it wasn’t possible. That flies directly in the face of what Tesla did to the car that he actually purchased.

Alec’s story is not an exception, either. Jalopnik notes that Tesla message boards and other online communities have numerous complaints about similar things happening to other Tesla owners.

The future of connected and autonomous driving is still a bright and exciting one. However, if Ford or Dodge showed up at your house to remove a feature from your used car because you didn’t directly give them money for it, you’d rightly call the police. Alec bought a car based on the features it had and then had those features electronically removed via a software update. It’s basically the same thing.

Tesla has not yet commented on the situation.




Devon is a writer, editor, and veteran of the online publishing world. He has a particular love for classic muscle cars.