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Unfortunately I believe that even if the suit was successful, we would just see more purchases become 'perpetual licenses', skirting the updated law. IIRC, Tesla was very heavily against letting anyone tinker and went to some extremes to stop it. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see them make buyers sign a EULA in the future when you go to 'purchase' a vehicle.



I can imagine tinkering with a Tesla could cause some heartburn for Elon. There are safety issues, which are real. What happens when some maniac changes the software to make autopilot into full self driving, then plows into a minivan on its way to Little League practice? Also interesting, recently heard about a guy who can reprogram some diesel trucks to get better performance (probably at the expense of NOX emissions, like what happened with VW). Still thought it was pretty cool that the truck was not locked down to prevent tinkering in this manner.

NOTE: I am talking about what the company's perspective may be, not my own view of the risks.


What happens if I tinker with a regular car and put a nitrous oxide engine? The safety issues, which are real, could allow someone to plow into minivan on its way to Little League practice. It could explode. It could cause a massive fire. It could go way faster than the speed limit, bypass the limits of the breaks, and go against any number of laws.

So... does this mean I could sue Ford if someone modified a Ford car with a nitrous oxide booster? Could Ford sue the modifier for ruining the reputation of Ford when they crashed a modified Ford car? Will the state sue Ford for allowing such modifications, commonly used in street races? Can there be a civil suit against ford for anyone harmed by such modification?

To me, all those questions has a clear answer, and that answer is No. It also has a historical proof, as there hasn't been any lawsuits against Ford for failing to prevent such modifications. If the owner of a car modify their own car, then that person is fully responsible of any consequences of that action.


I would argue self-driving car software is different. If license terms permit modification, and a modified version is running in a car that causes damage, then there will be an argument as to whether the modifications caused the wreck, or whether it was the underlying software and thus the manufacturer who is responsible. Tesla, quite rationally, would not want to give users a permissive license, given this obvious liability problem. Even if, nod nod wink wink, they might approve of owners playing around with it.


I'm sure we all could come up with compelling arguments for both sides of this debate.

"It is the socially responsible thing for Tesla to make guarantees about their car software performance and prevent tampering in order to keep our streets safe."

and

"It's my product, I own the car; I have the right to tinker with all of it."

I observe that we constantly have this same debate: can we be responsible and take care of ourselves or do we need some ruling class to take care of us and micromanage our decisions for us? Or philosophically, can mankind be perfected through laws?

Half-measures and exceptions in the self-determination debate always strike me as lacking wisdom. Culturally, we should be strongly predisposed one way or the other.


How about using the same tactic many smartphone makers use:

"We're allowing you to unlock your bootloader, but if you do, you're voiding your warranty."

Similarly car makers could say as soon as the user unlocks the car's systems for modification, the company is no longer responsible for any accident that might happen.

It seems like a rather good compromise to me.


The car company is already not responsible for any accident that might happen. The operator of the vehicle is responsible for safe operation, period.


Yea, that's why nobody blamed Toyota for any crashes caused by faulty brakes and they didn't have to spend millions recalling all those cars at all.


No, car companies are sued when defective equipment causes an accident. They would have to take measures to ensure that consumer-modified equipment that causes an accident is not blamed on them.


Defective equipment is not the issue here.


Except for failures not caused by poor maintenance or poor/reckless driving. Like if your rear diff falls out because the bolts weren't done up at the factory, etc.


I'm sure user modification of functional systems would void the warranty. That is a separate issue from third-party liability, though, because the third-party victims are not party to the warranty.


>put a nitrous oxide engine

What?



Petrolheads add nitrous cannisters to their engines to get a boost in power when it is pumped in.

Check out the Fast and Furious movies if you're interested.


> What happens when some maniac changes the software to make autopilot into full self driving, then plows into a minivan on its way to Little League practice?

We can't let these hypothetical worst-case scenarios be an excuse to stifle innovation.

What happens if we let people modify their microwaves and a terrorist uses his to give kids cancer!?!?

What if we let people tinker with their toasters and somebody uses one to electrocute a pool full of kids!?!?

Please, think of the children!


> What happens if we let people modify their microwaves and a terrorist uses his to give kids cancer!?!?

I know this was said in jest, but given the (generally unfounded) fears some people have about microwaves and cellphones I want to point out that exposure to unshielded microwave radiation isn't going to cause cancer (at least not any more than anything else that heats you up could somehow cause cancer) because microwave radiation is non-ionizing; you would need at least ultraviolet light for that (and UV-C or X-rays would be most effective).

The biggest danger with strong microwave radiation would be boiling your eyeballs as they lack the cooling most of your body has but contain significant amounts of water.


Good to know, now I'll have something to say to my mom the next time tells me to back away from the microwave while it's on...


What about cooking the marrow in bone?


If that's not a weird joke, I really want to hear why you think marrow is going to absorb more microwaves than any other part of your body. Because it won't, it's an overall heat like sitting in a sauna. At low power it's warm, past that it's unpleasant, past that you have heat stroke.


bone marrow is one of the parts of the body that has high water content and thus would heat faster than others under radiation.

Sauna heat does not preferentially target liquid for heating.


Almost all of your body is high water content, and the heat will easily conduct the last little bit.

By the time you have to worry about specific non-brain parts being overheated, your overall temperature is such that you're braindead.


Actually, no, you can easily sustain heavy damage to certain organs without being brain-dead: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave_burn


I should have chosen my words to be more focused, I suppose. You can damage certain organs. You will not be cooking deep internal organs with an unshielded microwave. Not without cooking everything else.

Pretend my original comment ended with "Past that, you basically fell in a fire and it doesn't matter what is heating you." Is there anything wrong with that? Or the rejection of the idea that bone marrow is at risk?


have you looked into 5G signals? I was recently reading about how they plan to make them in the 50GHz range, which to me seems potentially dangerous


50 GHz is still significantly less energetic than visible light, which is in the hundreds of terahertz. The sun bombards us with a lot of visible light, but you have to get into the blue/violet/ultraviolet region before it's energetic enough (high enough frequency) to cause damage. Barring some strange and previously unknown special biological interaction with a particular radio frequency, radio signals which have lower frequencies and lower intensities than visible light from the sun are not going to cause cancer any more than exposure to red or green light would cause cancer.


>We can't let these hypothetical worst-case scenarios be an excuse to stifle innovation.

Well, given that the Earth could be wiped out at any moment with the nuclear weapons and stuff we stockpiled, long term this idea might prove to be laughably wrong.


Very true! We should be concerned about worst-case scenarios. Probably an isolated car crash is not a worst-case scenario, except for a PR-obsessed tech company.


That's not how nuclear weapons work.


Care to elaborate? Because that's exactly how they work.


Innovation is the magic word that renders everything it's attached to undebatable and unquestionable..


The parent argument is that the magic words we should stop using are "what if". So let's stop the qualitative pontification and have a quantitative discussion of cost vs. benefit for various parties.


How many people die in auto wrecks each year. How many people die due to accidents involving microwave ovens.


Put that way, the statistical impact of someone tweaking their automobile improperly is lower than that of someone messing up their toaster.


> We can't let these hypothetical worst-case scenarios be an excuse to stifle innovation.

Yes, we sure can.

I don't want your "innovation" killing a bunch of people.

If you can't innovate without endangering people, you need to "innovate your innovation" and come up with a way you can do it safely.


I'm sorry Mr. Wright, we have several, accounted ways of flying and they all led to death. Maybe you should try something a little safer. No, of course you cant experiment with only yourself as test person- this government cares about its subjects.


Still dont see the point why the third generation of the of Wrights should have a right to cease control over new forms of space travel. No reason why the descendants of the inventors wife and the patent-lawyer, shall hold back the creatives of today.


Someone determined enough to rework autopilot to work everywhere is not going to be stopped by the terms of a EULA.


It might be easier than you would think. It's possible Tesla (or other vehicles with self-driving features) have latent capabilities already in their software, which just need to be switched on. A hacker playing around in his garage might feasibly jailbreak the car and flip this switch. Whereas I would agree with you to the extent that writing self-driving software that uses all the various data inputs and maps to pilot the vehicle, from scratch, is not something very many people are even capable of doing.


Had the same thought, that would be quite the feat.


But that logic is kept far away from legal decision making.


If a Maniac has made unauthorized modifications - Maniac gets sued and does jail time. Tesla is fault free.

You shouldn't be able to sue a tool manufacturer for misuse of a tool.

If you cannot sue Mercedes for a case when a driver with after market tuning kills someone in a crash, why should Tesla be liable?


Safety policy should be enforced by safety laws. Not unrelated IP laws.


"Just" pass a law that makes these EULA's null and void.


But if this suit is successful, it would mean that Section 1201 violates your First Amendment rights which in turn means that EULA also violates your First Amendment rights.


No. The First Amendment limits what the government can do to restrict your right to free speech. The DMCA, and Section 1201, is the Government limiting the power of freedom of speech, and so the First Amendment is applicable.

By signing a EULA, you are accepting a limitation of your freedom of speech and (along with other factors - e.g. money) gaining some compromise instead (a car). That's not First Amendment territory in the same way that moderation of an online forum isn't.

The First Amendment prevents laws being made, not contracts being signed. It means it's not illegal, not that it isn't a breach of contract.

(IANAL - Obligatory XKCD https://xkcd.com/1357/)


Ah, thank you for clarifying! I'm not a US citizen so I don't know much about the US-specific rights and laws.


The First Amendment guarantees rights to citizens in the eyes of the US federal government.

The EULA is an agreement between a citizen and a corporation, and thus the First Amendment does not apply.


Under American contract law you can sign away any of your constitutional rights. Be careful what you put your magic squiggles on.


Sort of. We can't make a contract to do something that would otherwise be illegal. A very simple example is that I cannot put into a rental lease that I can evict a tenant in 5 days. That would be in conflict with the law that says I must go through a 30 day process. Even if I put it in a contract and you sign it, you can still sue me for not going through the 30 day process.


Right, there are laws that govern certain types of contracts. I think the problem there is that a lease is regulated, rather than contracts in general. As a counter example, the contracts that members of sober living houses sign indicate that they can be expelled for relapse without going through a formal eviction process. These contracts are governed by a different federal law (the 1988 amendment to the federal fair housing act, IIRC).


Not necessarily, if the contract can later be found to be unconscionable. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconscionability


Not true: for example, you can't sign a contract that makes you a slave.




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