When you pay $5k for auto pilot, is it a "license"?

Whenever you buy software for your computer, what you are actually buying is a license to use the software. The disks, downloads, etc that you use to install it are not the "thing you are buying"; it is the right to use the software on your computer.

What about Auto Pilot? If I total my Tesla tomorrow, what happens to my ownership of Auto Pilot? If I replace the car with another identical car, will Tesla upload Auto Pilot to it? After all I paid to use the software already. How about if I sell my Tesla and choose not to sell it with Auto Pilot, and then buy another Tesla? Will Tesla uninstall Auto Pilot from car #1 and install it into car #2?


  • edited January 2019
    No, the software is assigned to the car, it cannot be transferred to a new car. Like when you buy a new computer, you buy a new copy of microsoft word for the new computer.
  • edited January 2019
    @jimglas: Bad example, because you can in fact move your Word license to a different computer, but you're right in that Autopilot goes with the car, not with the owner.

    @steven: Think of it this way -- Autopilot is a feature that you're paying for in the car, which just happens to be implemented in the car's firmware (like pretty much everything else in the car). It's not an aftermarket application that you're installing, like Word.
  • edited January 2019
    Any commercial software can be legally moved to a new computer. There are no restrictions on using a licensed program on a new computer as long as only one copy of the program (or however many it is licensed for) is being used.

    But Auto Pilot is more like an option in the car which cannot be transferred.
  • edited January 2019
    good to know, I have never been able to transfer programs to a new computer
  • edited January 2019
    @ steven - While not exactly asked, if you total your car with Autopilot, the insurance company will pay you for the car's value with Autopilot. A few policies will pay 100% if totaled in the first year of ownership, which would include 100% of AP's cost too. At that point the insurance company owns the car and the AP. If you could remove AP, you would be stealing it from the insurance company.

    AP is also a lot more than software, but that's another discussion.
  • edited January 2019
    @TeslaTap: You’re right about the hardware. I should have clarified that the “enablement” of the Autopilot feature is implemented in firmware. Everyone pays for the AP hardware.
  • bpbp
    edited January 2019
    The short answer to "is it a license?" - we don't know.

    It probably isn't a license - but there isn't anything in the official legal documentation that addresses this issue.

    The Purchase Agreement only lists that you have purchased Enhanced Autopilot or Full-Self Driving Capability, but doesn't provide any definition of what that means - and the agreement has the typical legal boilerplate stating that anything not in the agreement is non-binding, invalidating any statements on Tesla's website or by Tesla staff.

    The Purchase Agreement doesn't state the features are a license that could be transferred to another vehicle. But it also doesn't state that the features are NOT a transferable license.

    The Purchase Agreement doesn't say anything about software-activatable features like EAP/FSD, software-limited battery packs or software-limited chargers (some vehicles have 72A chargers that are limited to 48A). The owner has purchased the hardware - the agreement doesn't make any statement about owners having or not having the rights to fully use the hardware in their vehicles (such as finding a way to software activate some of these features).

    It seems unlikely Tesla will consider EAP/FSD as a license that could be transferred to another Tesla vehicle. Though the only way to be sure is to ask Tesla about this, and get an official answer in writing (i.e., something on Tesla letterhead, signed by a Tesla official).
  • edited November -1
    @bp: We do know that Autopilot doesn’t transfer to a new vehicle — plenty of people have upgraded to newer cars, and none have gotten Autopilot transferred as far as I know. I’m not sure what value there would be to get this confirmed in writing, unless someone was planning to sue Tesla for the right to transfer AP.
  • edited January 2019
    Also, unlike a computer software, where you have a CD or file that can be transferred, There is no access to something you can remove from one Tesla and install it in another. Actually, I suspect every modern Tesla has all the software installed, but you need to activate it. Again - no way for owners to do this (sort of).

    Ok, I think Jason Hughes has activated features, but to do so, I believe he removed the MCU, gained direct access to the software with modified hardware and software on a salvaged Tesla. Something even most skilled programmers are not up for. It would also likely violate the warranty if in force and Tesla may elect to sever connections to the server (i.e no updates, no maps, no streaming, etc.).
  • edited January 2019
    Actually Tesla could license the autopilot feature as a feature on a household basis if they wanted to. Every new car you would buy could have the autopilot feature. I doubt that this will ever happen, but it would be nice in multiple Tesla households...
  • edited January 2019
    @reed: Tesla could do that, but then they might lose the ability to charge more for newer generations of AP. For example, if people could have paid for an AP1 license, should they get EAP in a new car without paying more?
  • edited February 3
    While researching before starting a new post, I found this existing post may potentially have the right people that can help me with my situation.

    Here is what happened to me; I purchased a used 2018 S70D from a third party (a new\used ICE car dealership in Costa Mesa, CA) in Sep of 2019 with full self driving autopilot capability at the time of purchase, three months later Tesla takes it away when the Tesla account registration finally took effect. What would you do and what can you do?

    After calling and emailing CS for over 7 weeks, I came to the realization there is no transparency in their process and they lack standard policy in dealing with their own issues. Pretty sure this type of CS support and policy will NOT help with customer retention and loyalty, how can consumers know some of the working options in a car may be taken away after purchase? They should make this policy clear and transparent if that’s their standard policy.

    I spoke with no less than 4 different CS reps during the 6 weeks period and each gave me a different versions of how they deal with this type of issue and affirmation “please wait, this issue will be resolve and you'll have your auto pilot back within 5 business days”. I lost my premium connectivity at the same time but it was restored a few weeks later. As I was able to find somewhat of a connectivity policy on their website, which mentioned any car delivered prior to June 2018 will maintain the premium connectivity free of charge for the life of the car. The CS couldn’t tell me when the car was originally delivered, thankfully I was able to show the car was deliver prior to the June 2018 date, with the CA DMV’s registration records. Pretty incredible for a technology innovator and disruptor to not be able to record and report the actual day the car was first sold and delivered?

    Finally today, I received an email telling me the full self driving capability was installed on the car as a demo and should have not been on there when the car was sold. How is this explanation logical? I had it for 3 months and was using it most mornings on the dreadful 405, nothing changed until Tesla finally added this VIN to my Tesla account. The car had this demo activated for over 15 months? I would have bought a different used model S without paying extra for the full self driving capability the used car dealer charged me, they had 5 other model S' there when I bought mine.

    Before anyone flame me for posting this, I never owned any shares of Tesla stock and is not shorting it, I do enjoy rest of the car so far, just not their customer support experience nor lack of transparency and clarity in their policy. All I written here is true and I have no reason to lie or embellish my disappointment in my experience with Tesla.

    People with suggestions or potential ways I can pursuit to resolve this, I THANK YOU in advance. Looking at paying $10,950 for something I had purchased once on this car is upsetting and depressing!
  • edited November -1
    I would talk to the dealer where you purchased the car. Your sales contract is with them, not Tesla. As far as Tesla is concerned, the feature was never purchased so it was deactivated. If the dealer doesn’t provide assistance, then take them to small claims court for the cost of the feature.
  • edited November -1
    Sorry about your problems. Do you know more about the history of the car? For example, perhaps it was a Tesla owned demo car for 15 months, which would explain the demo state. Do you know where the dealer bought the car from? I've heard Tesla sells some of its trade-ins and demos on the auction market, where some dealers pick them up. It doesn't sound like the dealer bought the car from another owner, which would not have caused these issues.

    If they bought it at a price without FSD and then sold it to you saying it came with FSD, that seems like fraud, but perhaps the information on FSD was lost along the way. Tesla may have improperly stated it came with FSD, in which case the dealer should go after Tesla or wherever they bought the car from.

    I'm not sure of your recourse, but the dealer you bought it from seems responsible. If they told you it came with FSD, then they are responsible for being sure it was suitably configured and either owe you to pay for the feature you bought or give you a refund for the amount it will cost to buy FSD. Also, I thought the price for the FSD feature after purchase is $8K, not $11K, but not sure where to check on the current price and I may be wrong on this.
  • edited February 4
    @ Stingray.don, thank you for your input.

    While I may appreciated your logic if I was not the one that had the FSD taken away expectantly, have you come across a Tesla posted statement\policy that says not every option in the car may stay in the car if you bought your from a third party? or for you to assume full FSD could be install on a car that’s been in service for over 15 months as a “demo” feature? Is there a way to check within the car on something that was tangible at one point and gone without a notice or explanation next? I asked the Tesla CS Rep and she was not definitive on how a potential consumer can check with Tesla on such, its not something people are calling and asking about.

    “As far as Tesla is concerned, the feature was never purchased so it was deactivated.” I did not get that as a coherent response for 7 weeks, they only email and told me the FSD was a “demo” today, 7 weeks after they taken it away. You think this should be easy to figure out if they tracked every option purchased with each car or this was installed as a “demo”?

    Unfortunately, the amount of money to remedy my damages is beyond the dollar amount small claims court handles. I am not looking to get money, I just want the FSD option I saw with my own eyes and test drove with before I purchased the car (and subsequently used for three months) put back on the car, remotely..

    Thank you @Tesla, appreciate the discussion.

    The dealer I bought the car from told me they bought all their Teslas from Enterprise and it was a fleet rental they used to support the Tesla loaner program. I believed them as there is a typical enterprise service record\reminder sticker on the driver side door. Unfortunately, my purchase contract with the dealer did not list every option that came with the car, in fact, it just says the make, year, and model of the car, with current odometer reading, otherwise it says “AS-IS”. I have purchased a few used car from various dealers, I don’t recall ever having a detail options’ list in the purchase contract, in fact, my recollection for a new car contract being the same but I do get a window sticker and\or options print out with a new car that list all the included options and cross referenced with the VIN, not sure if that is\forms part of a purchase contract, its arguable.

    I think it would be wise for anyone that is thinking of buying a used Tesla to get a detail options list for the car they are consider purchasing, as Tesla’s ability to install and remove optional items remotely on a car is novel and unfamiliar territory. I didn’t know this and would want people to learn from my unfortunate situation. Most importantly, people need to be aware a Tesla is not an car from the past, everything you see may not be everything you are getting. In an extreme, what’s stopping Tesla from taking away all internet radio functions tomorrow with a OTA update? How about restricting the full battery capacity because that was a demo we forgot to remove?

    I don’t think pursuing the dealer is the right course of action, I truly believe they didn’t know the full self driving option would disappear, at least not in Sep 2019. Not that I trust used car sales people but I do believe most if not all people would have treated like a typical car, any options originally delivered with the car always stay with the car. Tesla’s ability to remove installed options on the car remotely and without any warning is something new and they should state that clearly as a policy. We as consumers should not have to find out the hard way. I was told by one of the Tesla CS reps she can see the car was a fleet car, but won’t and can’t tell me who with. Same with the original actual delivery date, it was up to me to proof the car was delivered prior to June 30 2018 for the lifetime free premium connectivity. They obviously do not have a defined policy, as it took over 7 weeks to tell me the FSD was on the car as “demo”. Why did they not removed the “demo” option when the car is no longer in a demo environment? As for the cost of the FSD upgrade, I don’t know if there is a way to attach screenshot to this forum but I can see this as an “upgrade” in my Tesla app, it breaks down as follow: 1) Basic Autopilot $3,000, b) Full Self-Driving $7,000, c) tax $950, giving a grand total of $10,950.
  • edited November -1
    @747, your issue is with the non-Tesla dealer that sold you the car. Period. Full stop.
  • edited February 4
    I can tell you that it is common for demo cars to have FSD that are then sold with the buyer declining to purchase the feature. I don’t know why it took Tesla so long to remove the feature, but others have reported significant delays in having the functionality removed. Since FSD was on the car when you made the purchase, I think you had a reasonable expectation that you would keep the feature. So in my opinion you have a legitimate claim. The question a claim against who. Since your sales contract is with the dealer, I would try and seek restitution from the dealer for the current cost of the FSD upgrade. Then the dealer can go after Enterprise if they choose to.

    That’s just my opinion, but I am not a lawyer so take it with a large grain of salt. I do hope you can get it worked out.
  • bpbp
    edited November -1
    Both our 2017 S and 2018 X were purchased with FSD, and neither has received the FSD Preview features released late last year because both have the HW2 processor (and the 2017 S has MCU1).

    It's going to cost Tesla $ to retrofit the HW3 processors to the older vehicles, which may be even more expensive if hardware changes are needed for MCU1 vehicles.

    Until Tesla provides the FSD features that were purchased for the older vehicles, what they should do is offer to transfer the FSD feature to a new S/3/X/Y at no charge (currently $7000), and possibly throw in another incentive (FUSC) to encourage current FSD owners to purchase a new vehicle that already has the FSD-capable hardware, and save Tesla the expense of a retrofit.
  • edited November -1
    @747pierce - Thanks for the additional details. I've had a number of Enterprise Model S rentals over the years, and none had EAP or FSD. They seem to have configured the cheapest version with the least options selected. Nothing wrong with that, and perhaps there were some cars that were purchased with additional options such as EAP/FSD as I have no inside knowledge to how Enterprise buys its cars. Generally, rental car companies do seem to buy the cheapest version of a car, so it makes some sense they wouldn't buy EAP/FSD.

    Tesla has done EAP/FSD Previews where owners get EAP/FSD for a limited time to entice an owner to upgrade. I know several owners who have gotten this. It just appears and then disappears after a while. It sort of sound like you had the preview and then it was removed when the preview was done. I already have EAP/FSD so I've never seen the preview or how it works.

    You're pricing is likely correct. The combinations and feature pricing has changed quite a few times over the last 4 years.
  • The cost of the FSD is extremely expensive for something that isn't legal to use as full self driving. Its kind of like buying the cart but waiting for the horses to be born. Wouldn't it be more fair if the licence was transferrable until its fully legal and actual full self driving. Another cool idea is make the full self driving a monthly service fee instead of 7k up front. If its great people will keep paying their monthly chauffeur fee and if they don't care for it then they can cancel it. If its as great as we think it is very few will cancel. The customer could carry their E chauffeur membership to their next Tesla or try it on a friends Tesla.
  • edited February 8
    @TTap, the irritating thing about the Enterprise loaners is they don't even have TACC, which I understand is now standard on all Tesla vehicles. Going from a sophisticated assist like AP and TACC to "dumb" cruise control seems an invitation for an accident. (Yes, the driver's fault, but ...)
  • edited February 9
    747pierce brings up an issue that does need a fix for all Tesla owners because most of us will be trading in or selling our cars at some point down the road. There does need to be some set standard that buyers and sellers can rely on to determine what permanent software upgrades the car has like autopilot. If there is no absolute way this can be determined, owners may start to have difficulty selling their cars to include what we paid for fsd because buyers will be leery that it may disappear. I make no judgments on the issue or on any particular incident, just that there should be a definitive standard going forward. It would also stop other stories in the future or quickly label them as fud. This seems like an easy add to the Tesla logo screen.
  • edited February 9
    Read EULA.
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