BMW wants to charge a subscription fee for heated seats | technology

A lively pool of programmers at BMW have been modifying luxury vehicles for years, and now they’re ready to activate a controversial BMW subscription.

In the article published by the US “Vice” website, Joseph Cox and Aaron Gordon said that Internet services inspired BMW last week to propose that the heated seats become an $18-a-month subscription service.

A group of hackers who spent years unlocking features in BMW cars told the authors that they are willing to help owners unlock subscription-only features.

Programmable features

The authors report that these companies say they “program” the car to add additional features, such as Android screen mirroring or to remove unwanted software, such as turning off annoying chimes, and they advertise their services through many important forums and popular shopping sites such as ” eBay and Etsy.

Vehicles have always had different features offered as part of the packages (Getty Images)

The authors explained that vehicles have always been offered with different features as part of “luxury add-ons”, or “trimming” packages, which the buyer decides when purchasing the vehicle.

Originally, it was virtually all physical or hardware upgrades, such as leather seats, more horsepower, or a sunroof.

But these are programmable features such as automatic headlights and wiper activation and driver assistance features such as cruise control. Creating unlocked features through programming means that all vehicle versions can have this feature, but only if the customer pays to activate it.

According to the authors, with the proliferation of connected cars and the digitization of almost every feature the car offers, automakers are looking to make more money by making people pay twice for these software-enabled features, once when they drive the car. purchase and again by subscribing to unlock it on Android. Over the course of the ownership period.

The authors pointed out that Stellantis (the parent company of Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler) recently told shareholders during its Software Day presentation that it expects to generate $22.5 billion from the sale of software and subscriptions alone, which corresponds to expectations of other major car manufacturers, such as Volkswagen, General Motors and Ford.

The site indicated that Tesla sells certain features through software upgrades, notably the controversial Autopilot and the company’s full self-driving packages, which cost more than $12,000 to unlock, and also disables paid software features on used cars when ownership is transferred , creating a market for hackers to reverse these changes.

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BMW owners in Europe have to pay extra fees to enable important features (Shutterstock)

Not like BMW

The authors believe that none of the automakers has raised consumer expectations for paid software upgrades like BMW. In 2019, the company angered its customers by announcing that it would charge $80 a year to use Apple CarPlay, a feature that many owners consider necessary and even the cheapest cars are available for free, and “BMW” abandoned the idea.

But it clearly hasn’t given up on the “software as a service” idea, as it recently announced that owners in South Korea will have to pay $18 a month to activate the front seat heating.

In recent years, BMW owners in Europe have had to pay extra fees to enable important features such as the automatic deactivation of high beams when they detect a car in the opposite lane and driver assistant features that help avoid accidents.

The authors pointed out that BMW programming partners offer customers two different ways to receive new features for their cars, as the company can either provide in-person programming, where a representative visits the customer at his home and does programming there, or he can access the customer’s BMW remotely.

They added that for remote programming, customers must first purchase a “BMW Inet” interface cable, and this cable has an Ethernet port on one end and is connected to their laptop, and the other end is connected to the diagnostic port on the BMW car. And it costs about $25.

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BMW programming partners offer customers two different ways to receive new features for their cars (Shutterstock)


The authors indicated that the features offered by programmers to activate are very amazing, and they include playing an alarm sound when the car is opened or closed which is turned off by default in some areas, activating video functions while driving, and the removal of the legal notice to the entertainment and communication system “iDrive” when starting Start, the doors open automatically after the stop button is pressed, the car windows are closed via the ignition keys, the windows are set to open with the ignition key while the sunroof is kept open, automatic cleaning of the headlights, and many more.

According to the authors, a programmer in San Francisco, who asked not to be named because of the gray market status of his work, told them, “When I first started doing this, about 7 years ago, there were many requests for general convenience features, but now it has somewhat changed a little bit because the reality has a bit Mature.” Programmers hack a car’s firmware or create fake certificates to enable paid features, or even come up with hardware solutions to enable passive features, such as BMW’s driver assistance system.

“CarPlay activation has always been one of the most common programming queries when it was a subscription service,” the authors quoted Smith of Pimertech as saying.

He added that the ability of the three parties to access and change diagnostic information is not threatened, but that his company needs to keep up with BMW’s ongoing changes in its software.

The authors also noted what the programmer said about the problem of rolling back fixes after software updates became more serious as cars were able to perform over-the-air updates via internet connections, allowing for more frequent updates .

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It’s inevitable that people will try to bypass paid features like heated seats (Shutterstock)

Is hacking the solution?

While most of the programming services offered give drivers control over the entertainment or technology that best suits their car, others can avoid US regulations, as Pemertec announces on its website the ability to use an earlier range extender for the BMW i3 electric car to use. more than is normally allowed in the US market.

Meanwhile, drivers in the European market can use the range extender manually once the battery charge drops below 75%. Wii3″.

In most scenarios this doesn’t make a difference, but with energy-intensive situations, such as driving uphill quickly in cold temperatures, the range extender may not be able to recharge the battery as fast as it drains, so if the battery a small amount of charge, the authors added. The rest could result in the car running at the same speed as the small gas engine originally designed for BMW motorcycles, which is usually 45 mph or slower.

The ability to pre-program and activate the range extender solves the problem, but that option was not available to US customers, although Pimertec says one of its technicians can remotely use this latent feature on US car models.

The authors concluded their report with what the San Francisco programmer said was that it was inevitable that people would try to bypass paid features like heated seats, adding: “I usually don’t want to provide any service that requires hacking the firmware, but people usually do it anyway after warranty, But this is often what happens because a lot of information for programmers is shared in forums, for example if there is a forum post and someone says they figured out how to get full access to the hot seats and as long as people can read the forum post and follow the directions they can do it themselves, I think that’s the great thing about the internet.”

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