A new bill seeks to prevent you from being charged for features after buying a car.
There has been a lot of talk surrounding cars and subscription services of late. Automakers from all over the world are convinced that this is a great idea, while the public mostly seems to view the idea of Features on Demand (FoD) services as a shameless cash grab. Whatever your view on the matter, it seems that these sorts of services won't be going anywhere. Or will they?
Two New Jersey state legislators have proposed a bill that would make it unlawful for automakers "to offer to a consumer a subscription service for any motor vehicle feature" that "utilizes components and hardware already installed on the motor vehicle at the time of purchase or lease."
The bill also stipulates that it would be illegal to charge for a feature "without ongoing expense to the dealer, manufacturer, or any third-party service provider."
This means that subscription services would be legal if the automaker or one of its associated service providers could prove that it costs them money to maintain the feature or service, like OnStar.
But the way this can be interpreted is yet to be clarified. After all, automakers could theoretically prove that just about any subscription service costs money since over-the-air updates require a data connection, and that isn't free.
However, if the feature's main function comes from the hardware in the car rather than a data connection, then the automaker would not be able to justify charging for it. Heated seats, for example, are specifically mentioned in the proposal.
The bill also makes mention of driver assistance systems, stating that these should not be charged for. This could be a problem for the likes of General Motors, as its Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system (and Tesla's Autopilot, for that matter) were always intended to be available via a subscription. But both of these systems require data connections and cost money to keep running, so will the automakers be expected to foot the bill for costs related to safety tech? Or will these costs be estimated and added as a once-off fee when you pay for your new Escalade at the dealer?
All these questions must still be answered, and the bill is some way from passing, but if it does, civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation could be imposed.