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What would you pay for autonomous driving? Volkswagen hopes $8.50 per hour (arstechnica.com)
217 points by panda88888 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 691 comments





The car refused to drive autonomously. It said, “$8.50, please.” He searched his pockets. No more coins; nothing. “I’ll pay you tomorrow,” he told the car. Again he tried the self-driving knob. Again it remained locked tight. “What I pay you,” he informed it, “is in the nature of a gratuity; I don’t have to pay you.” “I think otherwise,” the car said. “Look in the purchase contract you signed when you bought this VW Bug.”

In his glove compartment he found the contract; since signing it he had found it necessary to refer to the document many times. Sure enough; payment to his car for taxiing him about while he listened to his morning HN podcast constituted a mandatory fee. Not a tip. “You discover I’m right,” the car said. It sounded smug.


Reluctantly he coughed up the $8.50. The car then said, "I'm sorry Dave, Seatbelt yearly subscription is also expired. Please pay VW $200 to re-enable, or press the cancel button to drive without a seatbelt.

Dave pressed the cancel button with furious determination. The VW Bug sped off from his modest suburban house. It's high G wheels speeding up and zooming past Burb beaters and Bimbo wagons.

Unbeknownst to him a catastrophic situation was looming...


After fiddling with a few wires to override the seatbelt check the car announced - "Congratulations a new version of iOS has been released that will improve your car's performance 20% - unfortunately this version of iOS is incompatible with your quite old car and our car software, for security reasons, requires the latest version of the operating system to execute. Please purchase a new car, now available in Rose Gold! from the Apple Store at your convenience."

He was shocked. He checked the contract again and didn't see any sign of the car being connected to Apple. He was sure it was running Android. He tapped on the link on the screen to open the Apple Store. Something didn't look right: the copy was a bit off and the url was www.appleshop.com. That's when he knew his car had been infected by ransomware.

This just keeps getting better!

This possibly sensationalist article [1] on Vice discusses a motorcycle airbag vest that requires a subscription to work.

[1] https://www.vice.com/en/article/93yyyd/this-motorcycle-airba...


Last I checked, airbags are not required by any government nor are they a standard option on motorcycles. If you wish to wear one, either spend the $400 upfront or pay for the subscription for the months you do ride. The monthly subscription sounds just right for someone who can't afford $400 but can afford $12 to wear an airbag vest on their daily commute on a motorcycle. It's much cheaper than ending up in the ICU. Vice is trying to start some shit but the interviewee from In&motion sounds perfectly reasonable.

It's $400 upfront plus either another $400 or $12 per month subscription.

I don't see this company lasting long after the first crash where someone thought they were protected but were not due to payment error/ddos/whatever.


There's an LED on the box that says whether you are good or not. Seems like the check is only at start-up via a bluetooth connection so if you turn on the box and it's green, you're good to go.

If this is familiar to you then you're right, it's a riff on Philip K Dick's 'Ubik'. Brilliant book. Thank you.

http://sickmyduck.narod.ru/dick25-0.html search for "doorhandle"

Also amusing is the normalization: "Free!" He stared at her. "That's not economically feasible. How can it operate on that basis? For more than a month?"


Reminds me of "Unauthorized Bread" by Cory Doctorow

https://craphound.com/unauthorized-bread/


people have noticed the connections between unauthorized bread and ubik in the past - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25010352

That was also my first thought.

"Ah, fuck it", he said, "I'm not that drunk anyway."

calling a software driven car Bug is probably not the best idea !

but it might be the most truthful.

With that pricepoint, maybe you don't need to implement actual autonomous driving, but instead it could be implemented by employing millions of dronepilots in some far away country that drive your car for you.

I still don't understand why the "autonomous driving" people aren't concentrating on freeway driving--possibly with special roadway markings--over local driving.

I don't really mind driving the 10 minutes to the store.

I mind driving 90 minutes between San Diego and LA. I mind driving 90 minutes between San Jose and San Francisco. I mind driving 7 hours between LA and SF. I mind driving driving 24 hours (two 12 hour shifts) between San Diego and Austin.

And for those of you suggesting car rentals, have you seen the price of car rentals even before Covid? It was getting to the point that car rental was often more expensive than airfare.


> special roadway markings

I continue to expect something of this nature to be necessary before we get self-driving tech anywhere close to where we want it to be. Cameras simply don't work in all conditions, and even with LIDAR mistakes can be made. There needs to be an external reference point.


But currently eyes do. So theoretically cameras should right?

I think most of the car manufacturers are starting to roll out automatic lane centering for the highway in the most recent models of cars.

Also see Comma's Openpilot for adding automatic lane centering to a recent 3-4 year old car from Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and others.


If we could have true autonomous local driving, cities would change forever. All cars would live outside the city, and cover (pooled!) demand with incredible efficiency.

Cars in cities today are incredibly stupid compared to public transit. Full autonomy could change that.


Ah yes, artificial artificial intelligence.

Ask yes, exploited human intelligence.

Though also, at the same time the liability questions would quickly become... Complicated.... With that model


In the same way that basically the entire modern global economy is exploiting humans? Well it does, but it also gives something back: living together in a civilization that kinda works (so far). I think for a lot of people doing some mechanical turk style driving could actually be quite a satisfying job, more so than e.g. data entry tasks.

Amazon's MTurk still exists!

"Beetle - why did you just ram us into a wall?"

'I'm sorry! Hit a lag spike, blame Telus.'


Like in Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age. Poorly paid actors in boxes acting as voice assistants.

Similar to what the company Spinvox used to do. Artificial Artificial Intelligence, they would break up audio recordings and have different people transcribe them, then piece the transcriptions together. They sold the service to wireless companies so customers could get automatic voicemail transcription.

Driving along the freeway at 100mph and suddenly "sorry afk bro need to go to the toilet"

Easier solved than with a real driver, just flip a switch and transfer control to another drone pilot. Solves more issues: boring long trip, flip drivers every 30 minutes. One moment you're driving a car in texas, next moment you're driving a car in new york, and 30 minutes later you're driving the Hana Highway on Maui.

With no consequence to you if you decide to go GTA on the system, no peripheral vision, no feel of the road or wheel, assuming you at least have stereoscopic vision with a headset it’s still not at all going to work for white out or hard rain.

It’s a fun idea that we can create a whole generation of Bangladeshi click farmers that drive people instead… but it’s a nonstarter for a bunch of reasons.


Why would there be no consequences? The person would have a driver contract, have passed driving tests, etc.

Not sure what you mean with Bangladeshi click farmers


This is how a lot of ideas get nonsensical holes put in them.

There would be licenses, regulations, threat of lawsuit, qualifications and all sorts of other mandatory requirements. If someone wants to be cynical then, yes, a lot of these safeguards would not be put in place until after a certain number of deaths had been exceeded. eg seat belts, air bags, traffic lights, speed limits, road rules in general.

The idea is still viable.


> There would be licenses, regulations, threat of lawsuit, qualifications and all sorts of other mandatory requirements

These already exist in Taxis, and have you ever been in a Taxi? Their drivers aren't exactly the pinnacle of driving excellence.


Sideline: face recognition based assassination.

I am in a country that is far away and experience multi-second connection drops on a regular basis.

Highways are simple enough that car AI already works fine.

Human intelligence could be useful for navigating construction work.

Really, what we need is to overhaul road construction (and maybe roads in general) signage and protocols to make them machine-readable, not just human readable.


If cars driving themselves will asymptotically approach say 90%, 95% or 99% or situations it can handle, then the car that also handles the last few situations will be very attractive. That's the car that can drive me home from the bar, or that a blind person can own. The 90-99% cars are still for able bodied people with licenses.

At some price point, it will always be a lot cheaper to add humans than it is to make the cars "self driving". And the last % I'm almost certain will never be cheap enough for autonomy.


There's a large and perhaps unsolvable problem of the state of the art solutions that doesn't get nearly as much attention as it should - even if the car can safely handle 99% or 99.9% of the situations, the algorithms are not really able to detect if they're in the last 0.1%. The car will slam into stationary trucks, suddenly brake for no reason, consider the tollbooth to be a bus - all with utmost confidence it's doing the right thing.

In other words - the value of proposition of autonomous driving would be completely fine if the car gives up on unarguably difficult situations and alerts the driver to take over. As of now, however, the car will boldly do something stupid and dangerous.


That "brake for no reason" is a big one. I have a 2015 GMC SUV that has "adaptive cruise control" which I (used to) love.

Since my last service, it seems they've updated it and it's far more sensitive than it used to and seems to break in many situations where it previously did not. What sucks about that is the vehicles behind me are caught off-guard with no obvious signs of the need to break and then the jackass in the GMC SUV slams on his breaks.


I had a similar issue, turned out the tech had moved the sensor and it needed recalibration

There are some models that provide the confidence that they have in the area of data being explored. I forget the name, but I think it's Bayesian Deep Learning. Something like: if it's something they've never seen, they would know they can't take a choice with confidence.

If the car alerts the driver very seldomly, like once or twice in the lifetime of the car, then it could be a dangerous situation as the driver would be somewhat shocked. That or the driver would need to struggle to remain vigiliant as, day after day, the car did the right thing.

In some countries you could even get a real driver (sitting inside your car) for that money...

That was literally my first idea after reading the title. I hope this plan meets a sad ending.

I also see people very quickly stop using their autopilot, as you will think ca. twice a day: "so do I really want to spend 8.50 right now?"


A lot of the early 'voice recognition' did this; the audio went real-time to far-away countries where a human would press the appropriate buttons.

Makes me wonder what those humans are now doing for a living.


Giving that Waymo video about a couple of weeks ago, that seems to be a very poor experience right now (even with the drivers close by).

latency might be an issue though

The average reaction speed of a human to unanticipated situations can be ~3 seconds. Any connection within 1000KMs is generally going to be under 0.1s - an order of magnitude less than a human's.

I'll take your word for that, but remain unconvinced. I don't think it's just about reaction time.

Playing a game with input lag is terrible because you always need need to do all your inputs ahead of time in anticipation what a frame 100ms in the future will tell you. That might make precise control very difficult, not just in unanticipated situations such as e.g. emergency braking.


Games generally already involve adrenaline and focus, where you're primed for action to happen.

Unexpected road accidents typically involve someone who may not even be thinking about driving, who then have to notice the random screech, focus their eyes and process what's happening, then determine they need to immediately break, then break.

The problem with input lag isn't that human input is under 100ms, it's that too much of a gulf between input and on-screen response breaks the feedback loop - your brain struggles to connect your input alterations to an alteration actually happening. If you're throwing a ball, when you twist your wrist the ball is twisted immediately when the wrist holding it is twisted (because it's physically pinned to the hand that's physically attached to the wrist, and literally cannot be out of sync with the fingers gripping it).

It's like how VR users need under 30ms of latency or they throw up, except less drastic.


You can play high res FPS games on remote GPUs now, so I expect that part could be managed, if not now then in the very near future.

Presumably those remote gpus are not halfway around the world. Speed of light sets an inherent floor on the latency.

The issue is not the idea of remote control per se, though connection drops etc. would be a risk, but the notion yoga can outsource it to somewhere with far cheaper labour.


Ah, yes, that's a good point.

How big is the different between simracing with iracing for example, and what would be required for real remote driving?

How is this solved for military drone pilots that do precision bombings in far away countries?

With multiple pilots that manage different aspects of the mission. Also, up in the air at cruising altitude the latency is not as critical.

Not to mention connectivity

As long as connectivity was 'good enough', the car could have just enough self-driving capability to safely pull over in the case of an interruption. Would still need to be some nines, but wouldn't need to be utterly perfect.

I don't think safely pulling over a car is any easier to automate than the rest of driving. Those are some of the most complex maneuvers where you're at least as likely to hit a civilian or another car as driving down the street.

Frankly I am amazed we don't already have remotely piloted vehicles.

Sadly we do, they're just called drones and they are used to kill people. (Sorry, don't mean to be so dystopian)

Would probably do a considerably better job than actual autonomous driving for the foreseeable future too.

There's a future for all these gaming addicted youths after all.

Yes, just hide an Indian in the trunk...

I just wish we would bring back car trains. I like driving. I want to drive. There are some incredible roads in the places I go to, and I want to drive on them. However, I don’t care much for the long motorway drives through Europe that I need to do to take me to the interesting places. I want to drive my car on to a train in Kraków, hang out in the restaurant for several hours, and then drive off the train in Gdańsk. Surely this is cheaper and safer than autonomous driving anyway?

In Finland, it's popular to take your car in a train from Helsinki or Turku in the south to Rovaniemi in the north overnight. There are also cargo trains that carry trucks from the coastal harbours to inland railway stations.

In Switzerland there are areas that are pretty much inaccessible unless you use the car-trains. Very convenient.

For reference, that'd be around 800 km by road.

I guess you're talking about a physical, actual train, but it would be cool to tack onto the back of a conga line of cars, and let some AI take over maintaining the gap and alignment with the vehicle in front, while grabbing a nap.

I am indeed talking about an actual physical train. Many trains have restaurants, bedrooms, and bathrooms, and passengers can stretch their legs and walk around during their journey. That of course is not feasible with a car.

It's called platooning I think. Mercedes have done a lot of work on it for long distance trucking.

The density doesn’t make sense. Imagine all the congestion on highways, instead you are on a rail road line.

My understanding was that congestion on highways is mostly caused by bad drivers.

A train isn’t affected by people randomly braking or weaving around different lanes because they lack driving skill. A train also isn’t as affected by inclement weather.


Cars are also tremendously space inefficient. The Tesla Model 3 is nearly as big (93.8 sq ft) as 3 Queen Size beds (33.3 sq ft).

There is the classic set of pictures showing how much space is needed to transport 60 people by bus, by bike, and by car.

https://humantransit.org/2012/09/the-photo-that-explains-alm...

On my (pre-covid) morning commute to the office, most of the cars crawling along the highway had one person in them. The slowness is the result of people trying to merge into the highway, not "bad drivers".

Another way to illustrate how much space cars take up is to look at suburban office parks. There will be a small building (usually 1 or 2 stories) surrounded and dwarfed by a parking lot.

https://usa.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2014/...

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Liberty+Lake,+WA/@47.67315...


> The slowness is the result of people trying to merge into the highway, not "bad drivers".

I stand by my point on "bad drivers". It's a well-studied phenomenon[0] and it's not a matter of opinion.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4m-OJosGaI


That is a mathematical model explaining one type of traffic jam - the "phantom" traffic jam. It can explain a traffic jam on a straight section of highway with no entrances or exits -- but imagine what would happen to that model if a second line of traffic with the same density of cars tried to merge in!

According to a 2005 report for the Federal Highway Administration, the leading cause of congestion is bottlenecked infrastructure.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_congestion#Causes

I used to drive 405 North into Bellevue, WA. In the space of 3 miles, 3 highways merged into 405 North. There was always a traffic jam, every morning. It started at roughly the same spot every morning. It cleared up at roughly the same spot every morning. That was slow traffic caused by the infrastructure.


There are definitely roadways and timing that cause the problem you mentioned but the parent poster is also accurate. So many large scale highway slowdowns and jams are caused by bad drivers not utilizing the left lanes causing the accordion effect in the merging lanes and soon the whole road is at a crawl.

If the drivers staying in the far right lane didn't do that mindlessly (their exit is not next or soon, why are they there?) or if they actually kept space open ahead of them for the cars they can see are about to merge, these problems would largely evaporate.

I'm paraphrasing poorly but, "do things slowly so that they go smoothly. Things done smoothly go fast."


They run in several countries, but fundamentally they are very expensive (far more than $10 an hour)

My knowledge of them is from here[0] and I understand their availability to have generally declined over the past several years.

[0]: https://www.seat61.com/motorail-trains.htm


Because they don’t justify the massive subsidies.

Sleepers have had a little resurgence over the last year or two, but motorail demand is low and costs are high. Demand at market price is even lower. With a good motorway network and reliable cars people just aren’t willing to spend 5 times the price to go on a train.

Even they were, it’s not sustainable. Far better to fly or train to a remote city and hire a car on arrival.


I guess I'm surprised and dismayed that there isn't more of a market for it. Hire cars are a bland, pedestrian experience, and I'm sure quite many people would rather drive their own interesting car on interesting roads. Not everything needs to be a race to the bottom — there are still people who pay a premium for a better experience. I would think also that government subsidies for this kind of service are justified. Surely it's better for the environment and also safer.

My car is bland and functional. If I go to LA then I’ll hire a convertible. If I go to Alberta something big and maybe 4 wheel drive. If I go to Nice I’ll hire a Citroen C1.

> Hire cars are a bland, pedestrian experience,

They don't have to be, although he alternatives are expensive. I rented a BMW 438i convertible for a couple of weeks about six years ago. Brilliant car and even though it was a lot more expensive than the usual boring vehicles I rent it was worth it.


Isn't the existence of a good motorway network also a massive subsidy to motorists?

Depends on the motorway, some countries have tolls (France for instance) which presumably cover the operational costs, most will have road taxes which cover all the operational costs several times over if you exclude externalities

Not in a lot of Europe. Tolls are high and gas taxes are high. Driving from London to Rome can cost several hundred euros in tolls.

Reading the headline: I could summon a car and have it take me anywhere for only $8.50 an hour? That's a freaking steal and Uber is in serious-as-a-heart-attack trouble.

Reading the article: Oh this is charging me to use a feature in a car I already own, okay great, I will continue never owning a Volkswagen.


What galls me the most I think is that minimum wage in 20 states within the U.S. is still at $7.25/Hour. Driving does not require a huge amount of skill, and it's something many us already know. Why not hire a person to do this? Well, perhaps an argument can be made for safety, reliability. Then again, perhaps the same argument can be made that a good human hire is safer than the machine, which can be hacked (any machine can be hacked, given enough time and resources thrown at it).

Volkswagen and Tesla are at the forefront of a 'Great Reset' in cars: turning car owners into car renters. Sure the base car is owned, but all the extra services needed to get the most out of your car become rented, it might as well be rented.


I recently purchased an old 4Runner from the mid 2000's, I though I would hate it, but it's become my favorite car (that I've owned) of all time. The biggest reason is seeing articles like these, more and more cars are closed off, requiring you to "subscribe" to get all the features of the vehicle.

My car doesn't play those games, it's a simple car, no infotainment system, no self driving or autopilot features, no subscription features. Everything works exactly as expected, something breaks and it's easy to fix. Even thought its super basic and doesn't have any modern features, its my favorite car I've ever owned.


A bit off topic, and pardon my asking, I'm genuinely a bit fascinated to know how you came to buy what seems to be quite a specific vehicle, with the expectation that you would hate it?

If it was just cost and utility (i.e. "yeah it sucks, but I can do x,y,z.. with it") I suppose that makes sense, and I'm glad it turns out you enjoy it. It just seems like 4Runners specifically have quite an enthusiastic following, I'm quite interested to know why someone would seek out an old one who specifically was not stoked about it.


> I'm genuinely a bit fascinated to know how you came to buy what seems to be quite a specific vehicle, with the expectation that you would hate it?

I've always hated SUVs, but with some lifestyle changes it was clear that my current car then would not suffice and I would need an SUV. So going into this I had the expectation that the car would suit my needs but I wouldn't love the car like some of the previous sports cars I owned.

I wasn't much into offroading before I got this 4Runner and I mainly bought it because it was so popular. Much like if you walk into a new restaurant where half the folks in there order one thing off the menu, you get that because if others are raving about it, there must be something there.


Thanks for responding. I can dig it, a utility vehicle you thought would be bleh to drive. And thinking that if there's smoke, something might be cooking.

Not everyone buys an old 4x4 to go up and down muddy hills. Some people just want to be able to get to work in inclement weather but don't want to buy new or need to spend a lot on parts. If an old 4runner was the only thing in my price range for a 4x4 daily driver, I'd probably be a little disappointed too.

I guess the weird part is as he mentioned the enthusiastic following. That makes them actually in a higher price class of their own for what you get.

As a Toyota enthusiast, even I couldn't stomach the prices being asked, and I actually wanted one. But I wasn't going far enough from civilization to justify that premium for reliability.

I'd say a used 4Runner is by far the least cost effective choices to deal with inclimate weather, so it seems strange how someone paid top dollar for a vehicle they didn't want. It's like buying a Gucci shirt you don't want.


As a cheapskate, an hourly charge is exactly what would prevent me from using this for extended periods of time.

Dense stop-and-go traffic is probably where I want autonomous driving the most. It's one of the most frustrating driving experiences for me. But it will be hard for me to switch on autonomous driving: Not only am I going to waste my time in traffic and my gas from idling, now I'm going to waste money per minute to let the car inch forward.

I suppose there are situations where I would enable autonomous driving, like in an unfamiliar city or if I had been drinking at all (assuming it's safe and legal). This would probably add up to something like 10 hours per year, which seems like a huge waste of a big technological advancement.


> In a swipe at Tesla, he said that by charging hourly fees, VW would make autonomous driving more accessible than “a car with a five-digit surcharge.”

This is completely disingenuous at best, and malicious at worst. This is a perfect example of the boots theory of socioeconomic unfairness [1]. This is just taking advantage of the poor-middle class' inability to pay a larger upfront cost, to extort them for more over a larger period of time.

The average person in the northeast spends 31 minutes commuting per day [2], for simplicity that's 0.5 hours,* 2 commutes a day, * 5 days a week, * 50 weeks a year (assuming 2 weeks vacation), is 250 hours commuting a week. At ~9 dollars including tax per hour, that means in just 4.4 years[3] it's already more expensive to rent this feature if the surcharge is initially 10k as VW claims. This is true even if the car is used ONLY for commuting, which is likely a non-major portion of use time.

This is 100% a way to extract more money from consumers, especially non financially stable consumers, while lying to all of our faces.

[1] https://moneywise.com/managing-money/budgeting/boots-theory-...

[2] https://www.statista.com/statistics/798393/us-workers-averag...

[3] https://www.caranddriver.com/research/a33235649/ownership-co...


Tesla charges $10k for not really self driving, with the promise that it will improve, and you should buy it now, because the price will increase in the future. I.e. they make you pay for something you don't have, with no guarantee that you will have it later. If it isn't a money grab, I don't know what is. And of course you can take a loan on that, so it isn't an upfront cost either.

At least, with VW system, you pay when you use it. Doesn't work in your area, you don't pay. And if you realize that you can't pay, you can simply drive, your car won't turn into a brick.

And of course it is to extract more money from consumers, that's the goal of every company. But personally I find VW approach more honest than Tesla's. The best would be to offer working self driving out of the box, with no promises and no recurring fees, but the reality is that we don't have the tech yet.

Note that I don't have anything against the $10k package from Tesla except for the way it is advertised. If they just sold you an advanced supercruise, there would be no problem. But they also sell you the idea that your car will fully drive itself in the future and that you are making an investment. Kind of like a Kickstarter, except it is a trillion dollar company, not a bunch of people in a basement.


As someone with a non Tesla car with some smart cruise control features, I think you’re being too harsh on Tesla.

I have a 2020 Hyundai, and there has been no major refresh in the 2021 or 2022 models of the same car. But the software features have each gotten slightly better. The cruise control will only slow down and stop you on my model, but on the newer model, it will stop and then start going again. My model will sometimes correct the steering at the last minute if I start veering outside the lane, the newer model will more gradually keep you centered in the lane so you don’t even start to veer out. Pretty minor stuff like that.

There’s no way the hardware on my car is the limiting factor, but I will never get any of these improvements. Tesla is still the only car maker to decide that car software can be treated like almost any other software people use, and actually updated independently of the hardware.

Even if the 10k self driving charge is a little too ambitious, in my opinion Tesla are still miles ahead of all the other major brands in user-friendly practices.

It’s always interesting that people get so used to the status quo even if it’s actually inefficient or wasteful or arbitrarily worse than it easily could be. But if a company does something ambitious and new, but it has some downsides like a higher cost in the beginning, those downsides get judged so much more harshly than the downsides of the status quo.


> There’s no way the hardware on my car is the limiting factor

I'm not sure why you'd make that assumption. The newer models that can do more may very well have more/better sensors, faster processor(s), more RAM, etc. Just because the interior and exterior look the same doesn't mean that everything else is the same too.


I guess I can't know for sure about any one particular feature. But as far as I can tell, the company doesn't ever backport any smart/autonomous features to older models. Whereas Tesla manages to do this continuously, and years earlier than other brands. I doubt that every single incremental improvement to one of these features relies on brand new hardware or sensors that was not available the year before. Some of them are clearly just software improvements.

Tesla builds their cars with this in mind, and pretty much nobody else does. Even for updates that are purely software, that software may not even be updatable without physical access to the module(s) that run it.

The idea of a car you bought being updated new features from the manufacturer down the road didn't even exist until Tesla. The legacy car manufacturers can't just turn on a dime and start doing the same thing for many reasons, ranging from accounting and contractual issues to actual technological ones.

None of it is as simple as it may seem.


I'm sure these are the same kinds of excuses the execs within the company give as to why they can't do what Tesla is doing. And that's part of why Hyundai stock is up ~30% over the past 5 years and Tesla is up over 1000%.

I think the point stands that there is probably a ton most manufacturers could do in terms of over the air updates with existing hardware that they just don’t.

I see that as a separate and larger point, but it is true. The reasons for it are also more complex than "they just don't" though they aren't technological reasons.

They will get sued for this one day.

For what? Putting better stuff in newer models? That's how basically every product works.

For not being transparent with consumers. What will happen when one day you turn on your Tesla and it relays a message to you that FSD is disabled because you are missing hardware required by the new version?

Well a lawsuit would be 100% justified in that case. I think the far more likely scenario is that Tesla would release an update that simply wouldn't apply to vehicles with the missing hardware, which would stay back on the older version.

You are exactly right. And then they will eventually depreciate old cars because if google can’t maintain android development for old phones why do you think Tesla will be able to do it for old cars?

> My model will sometimes correct the steering at the last minute if I start veering outside the lane, the newer model will more gradually keep you centered in the lane so you don’t even start to veer out.

On my 2017 VW, this enhancement was merely a feature flag waiting for the customer to enable using VCDS/OBDeleven. It's an amazing difference!

Another good one I found and enabled is lane change assist, which makes it so that when you're on cruise control but slower than your set point (due to tailing a slow lead car) putting your turn signal on will immediate begin the acceleration that otherwise would only occur once you have completed the lane change and are no longer impeded by a slow lead car, so you're better matched with the flow of the new lane as you start entering it.

VCDS and OBDeleven are essentially emulators of the factory scan tools that only VW dealerships normally have. Way, way beyond OBDII code reading.


> There’s no way the hardware on my car is the limiting factor, but I will never get any of these improvements. Tesla is still the only car maker to decide that car software can be treated like almost any other software people use, and actually updated independently of the hardware.

You also won't have any features removed, like Tesla has also pioneered.


I have no idea what you are talking about here. Cars sometimes lose features between model years, or even during mid year refreshes. Tesla is no pioneer there.

I'm talking about OTAs being pushed to cars that have already been purchased. Not all of them add features. Some have removed or modified features in ways that owners did not want.

OTAs are great when they add features. They suck when they remove/alter ones you previously liked.


Yeah, that's fair. Not being able to opt out of them can be a problem. Though its tough as there are some safety related ones mixed in with the others.

Tesla has gimped range on cars that were already sold with an OTA update. This is far different from a mid-year refresh.

That's fair, and the limited charging speeds have been even more significant at times. This is one of the big downsides of the warranty being so weak, IMO.

> At least, with VW system, you pay when you use it. Doesn't work in your area, you don't pay. And if you realize that you can't pay, you can simply drive, your car won't turn into a brick.

I think this is a very optimistic take. We are already seeing the industry push out subscriptions for features like Ford's Blues Cruise. The costs are low now, but obviously they can go up.

I'd be really surprised if VW doesn't start pushing something similar well before they have anything approaching L5 autonomy.

It isn't too crazy either, as these advanced features are already useful.


This is a great argument. Plus VW has an incredible incentive to make it great.

Tesla auto pilot is like vaporware: selling software that may never be released, as requires a break through in Aai capabilities.

> And of course it is to extract more money from consumers, that's the goal of every company.

No it isn't. We don't have companies so that they can extract money from consumers. We have companies to help efficiently distribute wealth through the community to maximise the probability of social needs being filled.

If the goal was to extract money from consumers and give it to those with spare capital, there are vastly more efficient ways to do that. Why would they even bother producing valuable goods?


Not to be curt, but this is one of the most naive things I've read on this website.

90% of the time, people start companies to make money, not to "efficiently distribute wealth through the community."


I appreciate your curtness, but I don't think I was naive. Can you answer my question: So why do they bother producing valuable goods? Why don't we adopt more efficient means of transferring wealth from those without spare capital to those who have it?

He or she said:

> We have companies to help efficiently distribute wealth through the community to maximise the probability of social needs being filled.

We here presumably means society in general. We set rules and give privileges to people to run companies in order to better society. In a capitalist system this is done through the medium of 'enlightened self interest' so yes, one starts a company to make money but that is not the reason we have companies.

You are arguing against a point he didn't make.


I think you overestimate the extent to which our economy is planned. Companies sprouted up because people wanted to create them, not because society decided they were efficient.

"so yes, one starts a company to make money but that is not the reason we have companies."

I don't understand this at all. The reason people create companies is the reason that companies exist. They're by definition the same thing - companies don't exist without people creating them. So if people start companies to make money, the reason companies exist is to make the people who start them money.


You can't just create a company - you need a legal framework for a company to exists.

No, this logic is circular. You're defining a company as a thing that we've legally defined as a company, ergo you must have legally defined something as a company for a company to exist.

That's not true, though - the non-legal definition of a company is "a commercial business."

You can absolutely have a commercial business without a legal framework for it. People engaged in work and trade well before anyone wrote up a legal framework for companies.


> You can't just create a company - you need a legal framework for a company to exists.

Not really, because “company” is a generic term for any organization of people with a common business purpose independent of whether it has a distinct recognized legal recognition, existence, or treatment separate from the constituent individuals.

A corporation, LLC, or other legally recognized business entity requires a legal framework.


> Not really, because “company” is a generic term for any organization of people with a common business purpose independent of whether it has a distinct recognized legal recognition, existence, or treatment separate from the constituent individuals.

This isn't really true. A company doesn't include the employees of the company, not the way I used it and not the way the parent used it. So it doesn't refer to a generic term for any organisation of people with a common business purpose. It really only refers to those which have some category of legal framework.


"Why would they even bother producing valuable goods?"

Like opium by the East India company or drugs by mexican cartels?

Getting people to buy something is a lot easier than chasing them with a gun, just look at how bad we are at colecting taxes.

"We have companies to help efficiently distribute wealth"

There is no economic theory, from marxist to neoliberal, that claims conpanies are there to distribute wealth. They organise capital and labour, and maybe they fullfill needs, unless they are doing HFT or something similarly murky.


I guess they "distribute wealth" in the sense that they first extract it, then concentrate it and finally distribute it to a very limited audience. It's not usually the primary or emphasized act though...

Perhaps I should have said "organise capital" instead of "distribute wealth". I mean they cause it to be available to certain people.

It's the only legal way.

Have you had a look at the healthcare industry in the US vs healthcare in the rest of the world?


> At least, with VW system, you pay when you use it. Doesn't work in your area, you don't pay.

"AWS has billed us tens of thousands of dollars because we forgot to turn something off/confusing billing" hasn't taught anyone anything?

There's nothing honest about VW's approach. They won't have self-driving either, it will be at best the same as Tesla's. And yet, they want to charge you, and charge you significantly more than 10k upfront (because they expect to extract this payment every time, all the time, for the entire lifetime of the car).


You're inventing hypotheticals to say why they're going to charge you more, without evidence.

Pay-per-minute autonomous driving is far more like old pay-per-minute phone plans than it is mystery-AWS-data-charges. You know when it's driving and when it's not. There's no unforeseeable per-lambda charges about it.


I think it's reasonable to worry that WV or another company might start charging a variable rate for different "types" of autonomous driving. Pay-per-minute phone plans could be just as mysterious when you factored in long distance and peak usage hours.

It's not a huge logical leap to think that a subscription based service like this could lead to things such as:

You want to travel between point A and B several miles apart in rural Kansas on a straight road with a road density of 2 vehicles per mile? "Sure, that's 8.50 an hour."

Oh, you want to travel between Newark and Manhattan in the middle of a snowstorm? "That will be 15 an hour because we have to cover the costs for the real-time feed of data from our weather and control center"

Oh, you have a camper, too? "That's an additional 2 bucks an hour for our towing package"

Oh, you're traveling across state lines and the state over imposes an additional tax on autonomous driving. "we need to charge you 8.75 to cover the tax and our costs but only in that state."


> You're inventing hypotheticals to say why they're going to charge you more, without evidence.

Ah yes. There's no evidence. Except the countless instances of dark patterns everywhere on the web tricking into you paying money. Countless instances where you can't cancel a subscription, and have to go through multiple hoops to do it. Countless instances when there's a runaway billing in a SaaS that leaves people with huge bills.

But sure. These are all just "hypotheticals", and not the reality how the absolute vast majority of subscription business works.

> You know when it's driving and when it's not. There's no unforeseeable per-lambda charges about it.

Ah yes. Because of course it will be as simple as "when it's on, it will be charged", and not "when an obscure setting is on, you will be charged, regardless of whether it will be self-driving or not".


That's the same argument against software-as-a-service

Maybe I'm not bothered about self driving for 90% of my journeys, but on occasion I'm going somewhere unusual or want to travel overnight or after drinking or whatever I'll just pay for a few hours.

Imagine a world where there was just a set fee of $x per hour and $x per mile to travel. Would allow a far easier choice between different modes of transport, as the marginal cost becomes the actual cost.

(Of course self driving is years away so this is all just spin)


And then you forget to click a "don't use autopilot" setting buried in three levels of settings, and will pay for a month-worth of driving.

Seems to me it would be difficult to not notice your car driving itself.

It doesn't matter if the car drives itself or not. What matters is how money is withdrawn.

It's enough to have "on/off" somewhere in settings, and have it "enabled" even if you don't use it.

Good grief, there are countless articles even here on HN about dark patterns where people are tricked into subscribing to something, or being unable to unsusbcribe except when going through the hoops. But sure, a car manufacturer charging maney for a subscription will never ever do that as long as you "don't use a feature".


It won't be long after self driving arrives and you won't get that option. Humans are terrible drivers, even in the best cases. Once self driving is better survival than humans it won't be legal to drive on public roads.

Maybe where you live. There's a 0% chance human driving will be banned in America until we are all well passed driving age.

It wont be banned, it will just cost much more to insure (since it will be directly tied to risk, computers already drive better than humans). If you drive manually, you will need to pay for the privilege.

> since it will be directly tied to risk, computers already drive better than humans

They do not! Are you comparing computer driving in "easy" situations with human driving in all situations?


I think the comparison is made over the entire range of situations.

If we can get rid of, or vastly reduce, the problems of inattention, exhaustion, rage, chemical impairments and the like, we have a huge improvement. I think that improvement is vastly more, cost measured in human life, than the problems we see with computer control in odd situations.

So yes. They do drive better than humans. The fact that their failings are wack-doodle to us (you drove _right_ into that truck??) is swallowed in the fact that their failings are profoundly fewer than ours.


> their failings are profoundly fewer than ours

Better start showing off some statistics along with that claim.


Insurance is already directly tied to risk - car ensurers are profitable companies with current rates

I wouldn’t be so confident. I think you’re drastically underrating how much convenience will drive changes in behavior and social expectation. If self driving works (big if, I’m dubious about this), then the vast majority of us will switch over to using it for regular trips very quickly. As that happens, the perception about what is safe and socially acceptable will change quickly, as will the types of vehicles consumers demand.

This type of change isn’t instant, but it can happen faster than a human lifespan. Think about someone born in the 70s and what they’ve experienced with cigarettes. They were born into a world where close to half the US population smoked, and they’re now retiring in a world where smoking is de facto banned in most non-residential buildings. That is a drastic change, and remember that tobacco is addictive, which hampers change much more effectively than habits like driving.


I wouldn't be so confident 100% ("steering-wheel-less") L5 self-driving is possible. Long tail is a thing. There will for a long time be a need for manual override, for things like tricky parking or slow-speed maneuvering, bad weather, weird lightning conditions, etc.

That rules out de facto driving ban. That leaves driving ban by fiat. Also never gonna happen in this century, unless it carves out an exception for "classic cars."

As far as hazard ratios go, cigarette smoking is orders of magnitude more dangerous than driving. Not a good comparison.


> I wouldn't be so confident 100% ("steering-wheel-less") L5 self-driving is possible.

I’m not, you didn’t read what I wrote. I specifically predicated my theory on if it was possible, and indicated my reservations there.



Yeah, I don't think it will ever be completely banned. It might be restricted a little bit, though.

But the big benefit that I see of self-driving is that a lot of manual driving becomes safer. Autonomous vehicles won't overlook motorcycles and Miatas.

Autonomous cars will go a long way to making small, fun vehicles safe again.


Maybe on restricted access highways, but self driving isn't coming to dirt and gravel roads any time soon.

So this model works well - rather than paying $10k for a feature that only works for 100 hours a year you spend on the freeway, and not the 400 hours you spend on your dirt road in smallville, you get the benefit when you go and visit Aunt Mabel without having to pay a large fee upfront.

From a technology standpoint, this seems much much easier for AVs vs humans than many other AV challenges. When it comes to measuring physics precisely, complex computation, and rapid control, computers beat humans by a million miles. This is in stark contrast to, say, driving through a crowded urban environment with all manner of rule-breaking peds and bikes popping out of everywhere.

The ability to calculate the physics of driving dynamics has been solved for decades. But, if you feed garbage data to your physics models, you will get a garbage result. Computers are still very very awful at image processing as compared to humans.

Yes, I'm saying that environments with diet and gravel roads are a much easier perception problem than dense urban environments, and perception is one of autonomous driving's weak spots. Conversely, quick physics computation and response is a relative weakness of human drivers, and is exacerbated by these environments.

A future where humans are no longer able to drive will have to be a decade or more after self driving arrives. It’s impossible for everyone to replace their non self driving cars immediately.

The used car market is a $150bn industry. A quick spot check found that a 2010 Honda Civic still costs between $5k and $10k depending on mileage, etc.

By the time that self driving is required by the NHSA or whatever body requires backup cameras and the like in new cars self driving will be standard.

A $20k Subaru will come with it out of the box, no add ons, just like a backup camera today.


<A future where humans are no longer able to drive will have to be a decade or more after self driving arrives.

The National Driver's Association will arise with bumper stickers: "You can pry the steering wheel from my cold, dead hands"


...38,000 times a year

As self driving becomes common, people won't bother with getting a driving license. States that do can actually put in decent levels of restrictions and competency to get one rather than letting an 16 year old with 5 minutes driving round a car park out on the road.

As fewer people get new licesnse, the demand for self-driving goes down as people who can drive the legacy way die off.


It might be possible to add self-driving features as an aftermarket upgrade. My 2013 model car already has drive-by-wire features (for automatic parallel parking), so it just needs more cameras and a replacement CPU. Heck, as a last resort you could put a robot in the driver's seat, physically operating the steering wheel and pedals.

> Humans are terrible drivers, even in the best cases.

Humans drive correctly 99.99999% of the time. We can't can't even keep a computer up and running that well, never mind driving perfectly.

See this thread with the math: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12012166

The future you are expecting is never going to happen.


Averages are extremely misleading here, on the human side you're lumping drunk drivers (that could be precluded from driving by the simple mandatory adoption of interlock system), commercial drivers, people driving in really bad weather, across all types of roads and with cars in variable state of maintanance. Remove all those factors (specially DUI) on the human side, then add all those conditions were self-driving doesn't even attempt to try, and the sheer superiority of the human visual cortex alone is indisputable.

> Humans drive correctly 99.99999% of the time. We can't can't even keep a computer up and running that well, never mind driving perfectly.

This comparison doesn't make any sense. You're comparing _continuous_ operation with the aggregate of the average human's bouts of driving. Even robotaxis aren't going to run constantly. A sensible analogue would be something like aircraft software, which I'd guess does have near the reliability of human drivers (and can last much longer continuously than humans do).


> You're comparing _continuous_ operation with the aggregate of the average human's bouts of driving.

I don't understand what you mean. I'm comparing actual time behind the wheel - hours of correct driving vs hours (well minutes) of incorrect driving.

Do the math yourself, take total hours behind the wheel and divide by the accident rate, like I did. You'll get the same results. Depending on your assumptions anywhere from 99.999 to 99.99999% correct driving by humans.

> Even robotaxis aren't going to run constantly.

Again, I'm not comparing constantly, I'm comparing actual hours behind the wheel.


84 billion hours of driving[0] for 35,485 deaths[1]. That's one death per 2.4 million hours, so that's an indicator of the magnitude that's needed before even talking about it.

That number also means no situations where the computer gives up and hands control back to the driver.

If autonomous cars can never hand back (at most stopping legally, safely and out of traffic) and cause 1 death per 10 million hours, that would seem about right.

[0] https://www.volpe.dot.gov/news/how-much-time-do-americans-sp...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_vehicle_fatality_rate_in...


Is this not a reference to uptime (as in servers)?

> We can't can't even keep a computer up and running that well

That's the comparison that I quoted in my comment and that I was responding to. You're comparing continuous uptime to humans' disconnected (and brief) bouts of driving.


>A sensible analogue would be something like aircraft software

Does automobile software development have the level of oversight that aircraft development has in terms of regulation and approval for use? I know the NHTSA approves safety with crash tests (and are currently working on AV standards) but I'm not sure it's an equivalent to what the FAA currently does.

Not to say they won't be equivalent in the future, but I don't know how well the analogue holds up if they don't have equivalent levels of quality oversight currently.


> Does automobile software development have the level of oversight that aircraft development has in terms of regulation and approval for use?

Nothing in my comment implied this, and I don't disagree that it doesn't. The question is immaterial to the specific topic of discussion: the comparison of server uptime to human-driver reliability as an indicator of the feasibility of functional AV software.


The tone of your response seems to imply I’ve was attacking your position, but that wasn’t my intent.

I am legitimately asking how much parity there is regarding oversight regulation between flight and autonomous software, which would help make your point clearer since it has a direct relationship to reliability.

However, I do think it’s relevant to the point. If you are making an analogy about reliability but one is legally forced to demonstrate reliability while the other is not, does that comparison really make sense with that additional context? While I've worked in the aerospace software domain, I don't know to what standard AV is held which is why I was asking.


> seems to imply I’ve was attacking your position, but that wasn’t my intent.

Not quite attacking, but disagreeing with an implied assumption that I didn't make (ie, that I was arguing that AVs were ready for primetime instead of narrowly disputing the flawed reliability comparison in the parent comment).

> I am legitimately asking how much parity there is regarding oversight regulation between flight and autonomous software, which would help make your point clearer since it has a direct relationship to reliability

The reason I figured it was rhetorical is that I thought it was fairly universally known that there's no comparable regulatory apparatus for AVs (yet?). But you're mistaken that this is relevant to my point: the parent comment was discussing the feasibility of AVs by saying "we can't build computers with the uptime of human drivers", and I was pointing out that he had this backwards.

> If you are making an analogy about reliability but one is legally forced to demonstrate reliability while the other is not, does that comparison really make sense with that additional context?

I didn't say AVs were as reliable as aircraft software, nor that they would definitely get to that pt (perhaps they don't need to, as safe stops are much easier on the ground). I was disputing the claim that computer system uptime can't be made as reliable as humans in the current day, using aircraft systems as an in-production example.


Ah, ok. Thanks for taking the time to clarify. It sounds like we’re making the same point but maybe talking past one another.

My point was that AV-aircraft comparison is only valid iff they are held to the same quality standard. It sounds like we agree they are not.

I think it’s important to include that caveat, that’s all. If you assume everybody already knows that, I can understand why you didn’t include it in your original point.


There is very little reason to believe Tesla will be best let alone first when it comes to self driving technology. I personally feel they are backing the wrong technology and will ultimately be unsuccessful without LIDAR sensors like Waymo and other startups and the beta testers with current model Teslas are going to ultimately end up disappointed.

I don't own a car currently (nor any Tesla stock) so I'm happy to wait and see if I'm wrong or right.


Tesla can already generate a pretty good "lidar point cloud" out of just camera input.

But we'll see.


One issue with Tesla's approach is that they do not have enough cameras to do this at every angle. Its going to be especially tough in parking lots, as they have very poor coverage of the road directly beneath them.

Mobileye's camera based point cloud approach appears to be much more robust.


Why would the car need to see the road directly beneath while parking? Because of positional error (drift) or what? It should know the painted markings from earlier frames.

Good point though. I'd like Tesla to add more cameras.


> This is 100% a way to extract more money from consumers, especially non financially stable consumers, while lying to all of our faces

Isn't this hyperbolic? I split time between at least two cities. Being able to pay as I go represents a real saving in cost, time and attention.

Sometimes buying is better than renting. But sometimes there are economies of centralization. AWS isn't a scam on companies too poor to buy servers.


It's the same argument that BMW made, and it's just as faulty here. They said that instead of paying $500 upfront for heated seats, they will be available as an annual unlock for say $100/year. Since they know an average owner keeps a new BMW for only 3 years, this is a saving for new buyers - isn't that great??? I hate this argument with a burning passion though, it's turning ownership into subscription only to extract more money in the long run.

I'm sorry, is that an actual thing? There's a car with built in hardware system that costs annual service to unlock - not content (XM/Sirius/Whatever), but actual heated seats?

And people buy this?

I am beyond incredulous and want to pinch myself. Offering Apple/Android play as subscription was bad enough and an automatic deal-breaker, but this is just ludicrous.


BMW is selling this as a great solution to fleet cars - say your company buys 100 cars for your employees - this way everyone gets a "base" spec car at a low cost to the company, but if an employee wants a sport mode or adaptive cruise control they can just pay to unlock it from their own pocket.

Like, it makes sense to a lot of people. BMW loves this, corporate fleets love this. But as it slowly becomes standard we all lose.

Also, Tesla sold exactly this for a while(don't know if they still do) to hit their $35k promise of a Model 3 - the car had heated seats installed, but you had to pay a one time $1000 fee to Tesla to unlock them.


I see two futures here.

Future 1:

I'm working for a company and I buy the heated seats upgrade.

Eight months later I'm looking at moving to another company and I'll lose that value. Maybe that affects my decision.

So I'm paying for my own employer-lock-in loyalty perks? Am I a moron? No, so I negotiate away part of my salary, or my healthcare, to have the nicer car.

Future 2:

You get heated seats on certain luxury car brands as long as you have an American Express platinum. Just like airport lounge access.

I'd bet on Future 2.

They're both dystopian.


I mean, it will be like everything else - companies which really want to spoil their employees and who buy BMWs as fleet cars, will order them with every subscription option covered and just eat the cost. So the CEO doesn't have to worry about his 7-series not having heated seats.

But I can also totally see situations where if the choice is between say....a Ford Mondeo or a BMW 3-series, the company can go "you can get the BMW, but we're not paying anything for options - if you want them, that's on you".

>>Eight months later I'm looking at moving to another company and I'll lose that value. Maybe that affects my decision.

If it's a subscription, then that value is lost anyway. You can probably get a partial refund for the unused months before you return the car.


Agreed about C-level execs, of course.

Another poster said it's a $300 one-time payment. So you're losing that when you leave. Figure on a bunch of options and it's a lot of money.

I'd want it tied to me, not the vehicle. I paid for heated seats on my last BMW. You're charging me again? For DLC?

If I could pay for heated seats forever I could see it. It's just software, you're putting the same seats in every car, now we have a value.

So of course that will never happen.


Paying a one time unlock fee and paying a subscription on a hardware feature are vastly different things. You might still disagree with both, but they are different.

Heated seats are a pretty standard upgrade that people will pay for, so I'm not sure that it makes much difference whether it's a physical upgrade or a software unlock, and there are valid reasons Tesla might choose a software unlock.

But charging a subscription fee on heated seats on a non-rental car is outrageous.


It's not necessarily as different as it seems. When you buy a second hand Tesla from Tesla it can happen that a feature that the previous owner had has been disabled. Tesla has in fact been accused of disabling features of cars that were not sold through them.

Does the 1000 USD upgrade buy the feature or merely enable it for the time that the owner owns the car?


Charging a new owner to unlock the feature again is slightly different than charging the original owner a subscription.

However, I still see selling features as a software upgrade strictly as an alternative means* of selling upgrades. So the upgrade should be tied to the car, not the owner. The added bonus here would be that a second owner could unlock features that the initial owner didn't want.

*i.e. Tesla might decide it's better just to put the heated seats in all cars rather than manufacturing cars with and without.


It’s actually $300 one time payment.

Tesla has done that kind of things a number of times. In earlier Model S versions, you could get a software locked battery for less money. You could then pay to unlock the capacity.

On the current Model 3 SR+, the rear seats are not heated, but you can pay to have the software unlock them. Its a few hundred dollars, I think.

For both the Model 3 LR and the Y LR, there is an available one time $2k USD upgrade to provide enhanced acceleration.

And obviously, the "FSD" package is a software fee that generally requires no hardware changes. It does get you access to some new hardware, though if needed.

But I think people see this differently if it is a one time fee vs a subscription fee.


This is complete bullshit, it started as a normal feature. My 2009 328i has heated seats I've never once had to pay to activate.

No one in a fleet vehicle pays for their own 'upgrades', man.

DLC on cars and people are here defending it, I lost my shit over games doing it. We went from pay once for the game, maybe another expansion thay doubled your vanilla game. Now every company nickles and dimes us to death. Does no one remember banks being shit on for that in the 80s-90s?


Wait, which part of it is bullshit? I have a feeling there is some terrible misunderstanding here.

>>My 2009 328i has heated seats I've never once had to pay to activate.

Yes, what's your point?

>>No one in a fleet vehicle pays for their own 'upgrades', man.

In modern 2021+ and higher BMW models in the US, they do, man. That is literally BMW's payment model on NEW cars. Don't know why you'd assume I'm talking about a 2009 model.

>>DLC on cars and people are here defending it

So far I had like 40 replies to my comment with maybe one or two people defending the practice. Is it really worth getting upset over it(the people commenting, not the practice)?


Indeed. I sold my car, but I am still paying for one of the subscriptions I had on it. Can't cancel, but can settle early (4 months left on it). It's a clever way to add to the cashflow for those companies.

But the fact that you paid for the heated seats upfront increases the value of the car when you resell it. Likely by more than what you saved by renting?

…or maybe that was your point?


Indeed. BMW's argument to this is that all cars will have all equipment built in - it will all be unlockable by subscription. Want adaptive cruise control? $200 a year. Heated seats? $100 a year. Sport modes for the engine/transmission? $400 a year. etc etc etc.

It annoys me to no end because it means you are paying(in the cost of the car) to have all of this advanced tech in the car, but you can't use it without subscription. What if I get a modder to enable it anyway? Am I now a criminal? What about the environmental impact of lugging around hardware that you don't want or need, just in case you or the next owner wants it?


It's an interesting question. I bought the car. Ownership transferred to me. What if I decide to rewire some of the electronics and unlock heated seats or some other paid extra?

I imagine they will make an argument that while you own the hardware, you are breaking the terms and conditions of their software. You never paid them to unlock the heated seats in software. Of course that argument fails if you get it modded so there's an extra button on the side and it just provides power to the seats, bypassing the rest of the system. It's going to be a fun legislative challenge once someone inevitably brings it to court, I'm sure.

Then the next lines of defence will be warrantee negation, OEM parts locking, sensor/actuator distribution (like seat-thermo tied to airbag weight sensor), safety regulation either directly or through failed inspection scams.

[flagged]


I love renting BMWs. They feel like I'm just running along the road. I love that experience.

Then I bought a BeaterMW because I needed a car, didn't want a loan, and had access to garage space.

It was a wonderful and labor-intensive two years of driving pleasure followed by a lump of metal out front I still haven't gotten rid of.

It took a very particular set of requirements to make that a win.

I would never recommend a BMW to anybody.


What are your favorite vehicles?

No favourites, really. To me they're "just transport" and cars bore me to tears, but the most comfortable drive I can recall was a Honda (model long since forgotten).

[flagged]


The insults aren't necessary and aren't a good fit here:

> Be kind. Don't be snarky. Have curious conversation; don't cross-examine. Please don't fulminate. Please don't sneer, including at the rest of the community.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


My Jeep has features I can 'unlock' for a one-time fee. $500 will give me navigation, they constantly email me with offers of $75, $150 off

With navigation, that fee pays for licensing the map data. Much more legitimate than paying to unlock hardware that's already installed.

>> They said that instead of paying $500 upfront for heated seats, they will be available as an annual unlock for say $100/year. Since they know an average owner keeps a new BMW for only 3 years, this is a saving for new buyers - isn't that great?

So what exactly is the problem here?

Isn't having the choice between several options a good thing from consumer point of view? Isn't extracting more money a whole point of company to exist?


>>So what exactly is the problem here?

I suppose I have an ideological problem with cars being sold this way. I see them as something that you own entirely once you paid for them. The idea that the car physically has heated seats installed but you can't switch them on without paying a fee to BMW is literally offensive to me on some higher level.

I don't know how to explain this better, I just don't want to live in a world where we buy things but never actualy own them. Yes, I am aware that computers and their software has operated like this for a long time now - doesn't mean that I accept this in cars.

>>Isn't having the choice between several options a good thing from consumer point of view?

To use another example - imagine if property developers built only 6-bed houses to streamline their construction process, but 4 out of these bedrooms were walled up and inaccessible by default. But hey, don't worry, you can pay an annual fee to the developer to unlock these bedrooms! Surely that's great for customers, because you only pay for what you need. Kid moved out to college and you no longer need their bedroom? Stop paying the extra fee, some guys will come over and brick up the door again. Isn't consumer choice great?

My point is - consumer choice isn't always the best outcome for everyone, including consumers. And I believe this is a false choice anyway, because BMW isn't aiming to offer this as a $500 one-time unlock OR $100 annual fee - it's just the annual subscription. Just like you can't just buy a standalone copy of Photoshop anymore, it's been replaced with a subscription model entirely.

>>Isn't extracting more money a whole point of company to exist?

I mean, it can be, but in a capitalist competitive market hopefully there will be competition that doesn't do that - and if it actively turns people away from buying BMW products then this whole idea fails at its intended purpose - can't extract more money from your customers if people don't become your customers in the first place.


They said that instead of paying $5000 upfront for a server, they will be available as an annual unlock for say $1000/year. Since they know an average owner keeps a new server for only 3 years, this is a saving for new buyers - isn't that great??? I hate this argument with a burning passion though, it's turning ownership into subscription only to extract more money in the long run.

This is very different because you didn’t buy a server. If you were talking about a leased car instead of a purchased car it would be a bit more comparable, but still wouldn’t work. Because with a lease you have the option to buy it in the end.

Even a rental car doesn’t quite match, since you are in a particular car.


A rental car would at least make sense though. You're already paying a cost for temporary access to the car, adding on extra features doesn't seem outrageous.

It could improve availability of those features because a rental company could order a fleet with those features on all cars in their fleet and then customers who want it would be able to pay the surcharge, instead of being constrained by the portion of the fleet with those features installed.

Of course it would likely just be used as a way to increase rental car prices.


Why don't they increase those rental prices anyway?

A company will aim to charge the most it can to its customers.


Customers will pay more if they think they're getting more in return.

If they can increase the rental prices without extra features, then they can charge even more for extra features.

Ultimately it comes down to the business's own calculus of costs, prices, and demand.


So it comes down to the customers not having the knowlege of what they are getting.

Sell something without the extra costs and will people pay more? In the housing sector in the UK that's certainly not the case -- people didn't value freehold over leasehold until lots of media coverage, despite the information being right there for all to see.

In a situation where there's a monopoly/cartel, the consumer that actually looks at the total costs and benefits can lose out because there aren't enough knowlegable customers to make an old fashioned business viable, but in industries with low barriers to entry and low network effects it's not a problem.


I honestly don't understand what you're getting at.

In the above comment you seemed to suggest that companies would already be charging more for rental cars if they could.

So I pointed out that consumers might be willing to pay more for a rental in return for a higher perceived value in the form of extra features being enabled.


I'd be surprised if nobody has hacked these systems.

This is already happening with property ownership being coagulated in cities. How is this a surprise

How is that the same?

It's as if you bought your house, but had one room walled off with the developer saying "for only $100 a month, we will open that room up for you! isn't that great? you only pay for it if you need the extra space!"

Except that obviously the room is there whether you pay the subscription or not, you paid for it in the cost of the house.


I was looking at a house the other day, it said "option to continue rental of garage". That's not a new house by any means (1800s or so I think), nor is it in some modern hippy city with new ways of doing things.

Maybe not bought but we rented a house where the owner padlocked 2 bedrooms shut and said if we wanted to use them it was an extra $200 a month to use them as home offices.

That's......beyond dumb. Like, if you don't pay him the extra $200, he's not extracting any extra value from these bedrooms. It's not like they can be rented to someone else in the meantime. So.....why do it in the first place?

A bit weird but there's at least an argument that there's some wear and tear associated with using the rooms and, presumably, the landlord thought that the slightly cheaper/smaller apartment--with a possible upsell--was more rentable.

If the rooms aren't used, they won't experience any wear and tear and they won't have to be cleaned again for the next renters.

Because he doesn’t lose anything, but has the possibility of gaining something.

He's definitely losing something. Property taxes are based on area and number of rooms. They could have found a tenant looking for the right number of rooms in their budget.

Or he advertised 1, 2, and 3 BR and took the first that came along.

You are assuming demand is equal for all of those. It might be in some places, but not others.


Unused capacity might be claimed as a business loss?

Good point. Here in the UK the big developers seem to be getting more and more creative in generating post-sale revenues, be it from escalating ground rents, property management fees, captive ISPs, or £3 towel rentals for the sky pool.

That's only a problem because people buying them don't factor those costs into the equation. Effectively the company is arbitraging based on laziness of the general consumer to do the calculations

> instead of paying $500 upfront for heated seats, they will be available as an annual unlock for say $100/year. Since they know an average owner keeps a new BMW for only 3 years, this is a saving for new buyers

For someone who only occasionally needs heated seats, this is value adding.

I agree that forcing everyone into a subscription is coercive. But there are a lot of people for whom the flexibility of a subscription creates more value than it costs. Rejecting it ex ante because of its financing model is overly simplistic.


With a SASS product you're paying for ongoing access to a service with continuous improvements and a cost to the company to continue providing you.

With heated seats the hardware to provide the functionality was either fitted or not, once it leaves the factory it's static and so it seems pretty unreasonable to me to charge an ongoing fee for the privilege.

A world where my car gets micro-transactions to turn on the AC or heaters etc scares me.


> you're paying for ongoing access to a service with continuous improvements and a cost to the company to continue providing you

Why wouldn’t this apply to an autonomous driving service?


Is there any public record anywhere of any auto manufacturer anywhere that is implementing or proposing to implement autonomous driving as a service? Isn't that almost an oxymoron?

If your self-driving system requires some centralised service to operate properly, it can hardly be fully autonomous under all conditions. How can it react immediately to an emergency situation if it's not running locally?

And if you're not talking about that but just ongoing development work and making updates available after the sale, there's nothing that means that has to be a mandatory service. Either the original version works properly or it doesn't (and in this case, if it doesn't, it shouldn't be allowed on the roads and the regulators should eat the vendors alive). Any subsequent updates that somehow improve the "quality" of the system could be made available at an extra charge, just like new products or new versions of software in a million other contexts, without any need for compulsory ongoing payments where the system stops working if the customer stops paying.


Because the hardware and sensors are all local, installed on the car from the factory. There is no economic advantage, just a business advantage

To add to this - I'd be ok with VW charging for software updates after the first 3 years, like they do with maps. But the hardware and software that shipped from factory should work in perpetuity, period.

> But the hardware and software that shipped from factory should work in perpetuity, period.

There’s a cost to VW to keep that system running. They have to staff SWEs that can write security patches, have to maintain outdated methods to update the software, etc.

And this isn’t really optional for VW to do it as if there’s a problem on a 2000 pound vehicle moving at 60 miles per hour things can get deadly quickly. For example what if there was a way to get into the car’s computer via the map software that was last updated 4 years ago? Maybe a hacker could then turn off power steering? Yes that is a hypothetical but there’s always problems with software and they need to get fixed when the consequences of not fixing them are high.


But that's a legislative problem. I imagine at some point we'll get to a future where you can't enable autonomous self driving unless you have an approved patch 1.7X to your autonomous driving suite. Anything earlier than that is not allowed on public roads in autonomous mode. We're nowhere near that future though yet.

Like, going back to my maps example - if I never pay VW for a map upgrade, my 10 year old satnav system will absolutely mislead me and try to direct me in places which could be potentially dangerous. And like....so what? The system that was installed from the factory still works, that's the point.

These current systems that we have are all just glorified cruise control systems - and whatever you have in your latest Merc/BMW/Audi/Volvo/whatever will continue to work until the car itself falls apart. As far as I can see VW isn't proposing anything different - other than the payment scheme for it.

Also, as for hacking risk - this is a massive risk on nearly all new vehicles on the road today and very little is being done to address it. VW charging for autonomous driving capability has little to do with that.

And to add another example - there's a famous case where a woman's car has caused $180M worth of damage, as it has caught fire while being transported inside a cargo ship. Turns out there was an outstanding recall on that vehicle due to....fire risk. So initially insurers wanted to put all blame on her, since she didn't have the vehicle fixed despite the recall. But they all got nowhere, because there isn't currently any law that says you have to get your vehicle fixed when a recall is issued. Similarily, the manufacturer isn't obliged by law to make sure any recall is followed, so they were off the hook as well.

What I mean to say is that these hypothetical situations are interesting to talk about, but with the current state of tech and law none of it is an actual concern.


I think we're not anywhere near a level where a car could drive fully autonomously just with the local hardware, without a detailed data set of all the roads and real-time updates on conditions. That data set needs to be continuously maintained.

Also, they'll probably need a liability insurance for cases when their autonomous car inevitably gets in a situation where it has to choose between killing it's passengers or killing someone outside the car.

Of course, they could offer a pricing model where all that is paid up front, but I doubt it would be very attractive.


One argument in favor of subscriptions is that they align the interest of the consumer and the company. With an up-front payment model, the company has no particular interest, besides customer loyalty/reputation/etc., in providing continued updates/support for older models. (Which is sometimes enough--as with Apple in many cases, but often is not as with many IoT devices.) With a subscription model they do so long as subscription revenue exceeds costs.

Cool, so they would refund the full price of the car if people are no longer happy with it? Or would the 20K+ car just serve as strong vendor lock to be exploited in subscriptions?

That assumes that the subscription is for the entire car. But that's pretty much what a lease is. And that's what a lot of people do. They pay a premium for a new car that they're only locked into for 3 years or so.

And its a great model for people who want a known payment of $x and don't want to take on the risk/reward of deprecation, maintenance, resale, etc.

Unlike with say housing, which sits on land which appreciates in value at a rate and has a high cost of moving (monetary and personal), a typical car for the majority of people is a means to an end which just sits their and deprecates. The cost of changing to a new car is a few minutes reprogramming the radio and seats.

Ultimately what most people want is transportation which costs a reliable x¢ per mile at a given level of convienience, reliability and comfort.

Cars are hardly a winner takes all business or one with little competition - there's at least a dozen major manufacturers.


> With heated seats the hardware to provide the functionality was either fitted or no

I don’t understand this argument. Would it feel different if you had to install the FooBar component to get it to work? That the act of having to do something physically can then justify the additional cost?

I’m all for a rental market like this. It no longer means that in the used car market there’s 100 different cars of model XYZ to look at as there’s 2^n different combinations of options to consider. All of that model are the same and then you unlock features.


> A world where my car gets micro-transactions to turn on the AC or heaters etc scares me.

It's the HN community that have created this. If I have an EC2 VM, I have to pay Amazon a micro-transaction for every dns request they serve and every time I as much as ping my box


Tesla seems to be doing a lot of continuous development and the costs for that have to come from somewhere.

If a car company would charge me per day for heated seats, that would work for me, I don't use them that often. If they make me pay per year and they're installed in the car already... They've given me a nice electronics challenge, which adds value?


It's more nuanced to me then "the hardware is there". Because by that reasoning you should be able to take any empty airline seat for $ 5 since the flight is already going and will only use 0.00something extra fuel with you in the seat. And yet airline pricing is a big data science project at each of them.

If VW spends 700 million on making self driving they want to get more then that back. They can do so by charging everyone 10k more for the car, but it would make the car expensive and decrease sales volume requiring an even higher price. Or they can come up with some other model where users with less budget pay less while those that can afford it pay more. In that case you need to make it so that those that pay more get more benefits, and their idea for that is charging by hours of usage.

I'm not sure I'm happy with that as a customer, but the model isn't crazy.


The difference is that you own the vehicle and everything in it. Whereas in taking a flight you pay for roughly the combined value of limited seating, plus service by the flight and ground crews, plus fuel expended by the plane.

Therein lies the rub.


> For someone who only occasionally needs heated seats, this is value adding.

No, for someone who only has a 3 year lease on a BMW, this may be value adding (or value subtracting).

The money you save by not paying for heated seats when you buy the BMW does not go into your pocket when you sell the BMW without heated seats, as whoever buys the BMW from you will pay less for a BMW in which heated seats are free than one in which heated seats cost $100/year.

For a car with a 20 year life, you'd profit if 1 year of heated seat rental costs less than 1/20 the price of heated seats if bought up front. This is true whether you own the car for 1 year or 3 years or 20 years. It does not matter how long you personally plan on owning the car.


On the other hand, the fact that you paid for the heated seats does not necessarily mean that the next owner won't need to pay for them - the manufacturer can tie that subscription and 'unlocked features' to the owner; I seem to recall reading an article here on HN some months ago about some resold car which got the "unlockable extras" disabled for the new owner.

As most new cars are leased, at least Europe for premium brands, anyway, I think that won't be an issue. BMW will sell your on, not you.

> BMW will sell your on, not you.

It does not matter who sells the car. What matters is whether:

(the price of used car with heated seats that must be paid for) - (the money already made from renting out heated seats) > (price of a used car with heated seats that are free)

The identity of the seller does not alter this equation at all, nor can it flip a loss to a gain.


The seats are in, as a leased car it never belonged to you, but rather BMW. Now, it is up to BMW how they price the seats for you. And how they price them when selling the car of after you returned upon leasing end.

Yes, that is true for any seller. But they must find a buyer. E.g. sell those seats at market prices to some willing buyer who has a choice of buying a cheaper BMW with no heated seats or a more expensive BMW with heated seats that do not require a subscription or even another luxury car with a different heated seat pricing model. This is a crowded market. And BMW will sell the car at the market clearing price or it will hang onto excess inventory, so it matters very much whether the value obtained from heated seats without a subscription is greater or less than the price of the subcription over the useful life of the car, regardless of how long a particular owner holds the asset. That will affect the selling price of the car regardless of whether BMW or someone else is selling the car.

Occasionally needing? As in, one year they are needed and another year not? Because I can't see this argument working otherwise - heated seats cost 100$ a year, period.

I would buy this argument if they sold the initial car at a loss - but they don't do that. You paid for that feature when you bought the car, then you pay again to use it. This is just rent seeking.

> You paid for that feature when you bought the car, then you pay again to use it.

Short answer.

No, not really; a manufacturer can't simply lump the price of all the unused stuff onto the base price. It would hand the low end to their competitors.

Longer answer.

Assuming that the manufacturers are not operating as a cartel (which is a different discussion), a manufacturer simply adding the total cost of all non-activated equipment and services onto the base price would be competitive suicide in the low(er)-end market. So no sane manufacturer would ever do that - they don't need to.

Instead, as long as the manufacturer's cost reductions through simplified design, production, inventory etc., plus the upselling revenue are greater than the additional hardware and licensing costs. Then they can, at least in theory, include heated seats, air conditioning, self-driving and whatever extra crap they like for no, or very little, additional initial outlay to the base model purchaser.

Of course, purchasers (and the planet) will pay for it in degraded acceleration, braking and fuel economy if extra weight is involved. Perhaps I'm pessimistic, but given the number of pointless SUVs and Trucks on the roads, it's hard to imagine that'd be a concern to the average purchaser.


In fact, you can see how this plays out in the computer market.

While binning goes on with desktop and commodity server processors, by and large manufacturers can't play too many games with building in unused capacity.

However, at the high-end, especially mainframes, you absolutely have features like capacity on demand and pricing by workload and there was even more of this sort of thing in the past.


> I split time between at least two cities

Please don't bring up minority use cases when discussing the average or modal use case.


> don't bring up minority use cases

There are a lot of minority use cases with cars. I suspect there are more, in aggregate, minority uses than there are cases in the mode. In any event, there is a massive non-extortive beachhead for this model, as deminstrared by Uber and Zipcar et al.


Uber is a great example of how this model ends up awful for both drivers (who get awful working conditions and usually end up making a lot less net than promised) and customers (who get an awful experience, end up paying a lot more than they would otherwise, and still aren't making progress towards getting rid of that extra expense).

As a consumer, Uber has been a massive win for me. We own two “daily” drivers, but going downtown or to the airport in an Uber is convenient and cheaper than parking downtown or at the airport. On trips to other cities, Uber is often way cheaper than cabs.

I’ve never found Uber worse than cabs and maybe 1 in a 100 Ubers is dirty or smelly, reminding me of how awful cabs used to be about half the time. Many drivers seem about as happy as random workers in other industries but some seem quite a bit happier with their arrangement with Uber than most service workers seem to be.


Uber is certainly a win in almost all cities - I can count on one hand the times I've had an issue with them (once in Singapore, once in Kenya), and I've used uber far more than legacy cabs (where I can think of all manner of issues - probably 1 in 6 or 1 in 7 journeys)

Uber relies on the drivers underselling themselves though, which isn't good for society, but is great for the individual rider.


As a somewhat frequent user, Uber's rides have always been good experience for me. Never awful. One of nicest things is you can use it in many countries, from the same app. Taxi is a scam in a lot of places.

The complaint I have is that Uber pickup is sometimes unreliable. They may cancel after being connected, or they didn't wait at pickup points and left without contacting me.


To be clear: my criticisms are primarily about taxis vs car ownership. Uber just cranks the taxi problems up to 11.

For me, living in an ex-urban area, I'm entirely car dependent so these services don't really matter when I'm at home. But I know a couple who moved to SF and gave up their cars and their lifestyle clearly wouldn't be possible without Uber and Zipcar.

To call something a "scam" says there is no honest use-case. Pointing out competing use-cases is directly refuting that.

> In a swipe at Tesla, he said that by charging hourly fees, VW would make autonomous driving more accessible than “a car with a five-digit surcharge.”

Especially if VW isn't actually "taking a swipe at" Tesla but instead going after a different market.

It is like saying calling a bagel a counterfeit bowl of cereal.


Why? Does it threaten your sensibilities?

>AWS isn't a scam on companies too poor to buy servers.

Do the math and see how using AWS just doesn't make sense at the scale most companies operate.


>AWS just doesn't make sense at the scale most companies operate You are delusional if you think "most companies" operate at a scale at which they can support their own datacentres

I am not delusional and colocation is a thing.

Are you saying that if I did the math, I'd move my company to a more expensive heroku (I did), onto another, cheaper VPS provider (I did, Linode, DO, rackspace even, for other companies) or onto self hosted&maintained hardware (this hasn't been cost effective for me for decades)?

There's a point between being too small to use up a single beefy server and being big enough to go cloud scale, where colocating a few servers and maintaining them makes sense financially in most scenarios. For companies smaller than that renting a cheaper VPS probably makes more sense.

If you're any form of hi-compute, the cloud is insanely expensive and a no-brainer for colocation, even for as little as one server. If your service requires more than the average CRUD serving of media, the cloud quickly becomes far far too expensive.

It's all fun and games until that co-lo goes down and with it your entire business.

Speaking from someone who moved a SaaS operation from co-lo to AWS. Everyone (especially the C-suite) was much happier.


Always fun to see people compare bare metal costs to actual running cost of cloud infrastructure. For some reason such advocates always think the system administrators work for free, the network will always work, the machine will never break, the machine will not need to be replicated etc etc etc

To drive home an argument a co-owner of an old hosting company I had, calculated the costs for replacing a single HDD.

Everything from buying the HDD, to his hours to the parking ticket at the data-center. He convinced me and the point was clear: a single failing HDD would costs us more than renting similar computing power for over 6 years. We had two such failing HDDs in three years prior.


Most companies have 1 server

Iron is cheap nowadays. It's the upkeep that kills you.

This "1 server" is equivalent to at least two part-time admins to ensure smooth operations. No biggie if said server just hosts a static website, big deal if runs mission critical processes.

That's the part too many "self-hosting" advocates conveniently leave out. A correct TCO calculation must include this cost (and proper risk assessment) and only then can a comparison be made.


Maintaining a server is one of the big scary nothings that prevents many from learning the reality of how basic and elementary it actually is. Giving/having the process developers semi-knowledgeable about devOps helps significantly. But it is not hard, and not hard to learn from zero.

We're talking about businesses here, not your private amusement, though.

As a business you need to ask yourself: and who pays for the time it takes to educate at least two employees on this "basic and elementary matter"? If it really were so "basic and elementary", how come even critical infrastructure regularly falls victim to the most primitive of ransomware attacks?

Misconfigured email and network access settings, vulnerable, out of date software stacks, non-existing contingency plans, lack of monitoring, no escalation strategy, etc. etc. Billions are lost each year due to this.

It's very easy to underestimate the actual complexity of the task in its fullest whilst overestimating one's own abilities because "it's not hard to setup NGinx and service stack XY on a random x64 box".

Anecdote from personal experience: tasked an applicant for a DevOps position with comparing two systems we could choose from for a backend service. The systems came in the form of installation packages and docker-images respectively.

Having had no experience with Docker at the time, I thought it'd safe my team a great deal of time to have the "new guy", who knew Docker inside out, deal with it.

A week later we had two results: 1) a usable comparison of the two systems and 2) an e-mail from the cloud service who informed us that the machines we rented were performing DDoS attacks on a foreign company...

New guy had forgotten to properly secure the test machines he had set up and it took hackers all of 72 hours to find and hijack them. Luckily it only took a few clicks to wipe the offending boxes, but it served as a warning for what happens if you take the whole "big scary nothings" too lightly.


It certainly helps if one begins with experienced engineers. I am not talking about personal projects, I am discussing funded startups. If your team has not run servers on their own in the past, get a different team. It is not as if there is not a giant population of grey beards with this knowledge seeking work...

I accept your points, but far too many inexperienced devOps are given keys that should not have them. From your Docker story, it sounds like poor decision making on your behalf. Just because a developer knows Docker does not mean they know how to expose that securely to the public - far too many devs believe that's not their job.


> Just because a developer knows Docker does not mean they know how to expose that securely to the public

While that's certainly true, I think you missed the part where the guy specifically applied for a DevOps position.

The "Ops"-part wasn't optional and exposing a test system to the public in the first place is a big fail in and of itself obviously.

But that's besides the point: the point was that operating even a single server is more complex than many people tend to admit and you just confirmed this statement.

I also don't understand how you jump from "it's not hard" and "big scary nothing" to "funded startups" and getting a "different team" preferably consisting of knowledgeable "grey beards". Which is it? Is it simple enough to learn on a rainy weekend or do you actually need dedicated trained and/or experienced professionals, because far too many devs are unsuitable for this?

I have trouble following your train of thought tbh.


I'm not sure which companies you are talking about here. I work for a small startup and between us, we have plenty of experience of maintaining servers but that doesn't mean I would bet my company existence on me not forgetting to setup the firewall correctly.

It also doesn't account for all of the out-of-hours stuff we need to do. Even with a hosted solution and a lot of paid-for services like Cloudflare, we still have to check out every unusual error email, everything that seems out of the ordinary.

If you are 200+ people, great, you probably already have a team to manage this. If you are small like 90% of companies then you won't and I want to spend my time on the things I am expert in.


>It is not as if there is not a giant population of grey beards with this knowledge seeking work...

Really? There is a giant population of senior experienced engineers looking to do basic a lot of basic sys admin stuff? And they're willing to work for peanuts, right?

By the way, I totally agree with your basic point. The developer probably downloaded some images from a random public repo. As you say, far too many devs think security is someone else's problem and then get upset when the security person blocks their app going into production.


If something were truly basic and elementary, you should be able to do it after reading a book or passing a multiple-choice test. Now you're saying "if your team isn't experienced, get a more experienced team." Seems like we're moving the goalposts here.

If it were so basic, the DevOps person they hired should've been able to do it after taking a 6-7 hour docker course.


And, if instead of a dedicated server you rent some combination of AWS services, you suddenly don't need admin or need a cheaper one?

With services in particular you indeed don't need one.

No need to ensure the software is up-to-date, no worries about hardware outages, no need to monitor the system, etc. etc.

The person working with a rented service infrastructure can focus on what makes them money: the process.

With self-owned hardware you need contingency plans, setup, maintenance, redundant ISPs, UPS, extra electrical setup (many offices automatically turn off power to all outlets after office hours to safe electricity and reduce the risk of fires), and much more depending on the required tasks and their importance.

If you want to know what happens if you cheap out on that because "it just works" anyway once it's been set up and operated by an underqualified and overworked person, look no further than the recent ransomware incidents.

Some of them could've been easily avoided had the IT infrastructure been up to snuff. Way too many businesses and public entities still treat IT as a necessary evil that can be handled casually, not realising their dependence on it.

The specifics differ on a case-to-case basis, but in general it's a terrible idea for a small non-IT business to operate their own IT infrastructure. The solution doesn't have to be "cloud" or SaaS either. Hiring a competent 3rd party to deal with the specific implementation and operation for you is just as good even said party is "Bob's Business IT Services" and not AWS or Microsoft Azure.


> With services in particular you indeed don't need one.

> No need to ensure the software is up-to-date, no worries about hardware outages, no need to monitor the system, etc. etc.

> The person working with a rented service infrastructure can focus on what makes them money: the process.

No, that's just not even remotely true. VMs, managed services all require updates that are pushed to the end user of the service. Downtimes happen, and dealing with those are pushed to the end user of the service by cloud providers far too often. I have countless support tickets at all levels of the cloud stack of back-and-forth on issues, many as simple as "how about serving 200s, not 500s?"

I wish managed services were a rainbows and unicorns world of "I give you cash, you give me magic computer thing that scales and never goes down" … but that just isn't the case today for many cloud services. (I think about the one service I'd be willing to pin such a medal on is S3. It comes remarkably close, but even there, I've had an incident where we had an outage due to S3 that took much back & forth with support to finally get an engineer on their side to look at it.)


I think we're talking about very different things here.

When I say "No need to ensure the software is up-to-date, no worries about hardware outages, no need to monitor the system, etc. etc." I don't mean these things don't need to happen at some point. The idea is that it's not you, as in the customer, who's responsible for this.

If I book a Redis-DB of a given size, I don't have to care about its software version, proxies, what OS it's running on, how big the VM is, what the specs are, and so forth. That's what I'm getting at.

It's far higher level than individual VMs and it doesn't mean downtimes don't happen either. It simply means it's not you, the customer, who has to troubleshoot and fix them.


> If I book a Redis-DB of a given size, I don't have to care about its software version, proxies, what OS it's running on, how big the VM is, what the specs are, and so forth. That's what I'm getting at.

And what I'm getting at is that you do. While there might exist managed services that don't require this, many managed services nonetheless do. E.g., AWS RDS regularly has updated versions, and it is somewhat up to the customer to schedule them & apply them, and downtime happens during that. RDS is relatively pain-free, and is higher on my list of "would use again" for that reason. But take something like Azure AKS: it's a "managed" service, but upgrades are very much not pain free. I have to manually schedule them, and manually apply them, and deal with fallout (which is often, IME).

> It simply means it's not you, the customer, who has to troubleshoot and fix them.

Again, I disagree. When S3 had its outage, I had to debug why certain requests weren't happening, I had to capture sufficient request IDs to prove to AWS that S3 was in an outage for us, and only then did we get the proper support, and eventually, attention from engineering. My company had to pay an engineer to do that. Sure, I'm not literally debugging S3 actual, but that doesn't mean an engineer isn't needed on the consuming side. Same story with an example with ACR where we were receiving 500s: it took not only capturing 5xx requests & their time of occurrence, it took multiple back and forths to convince Azure that the 5xxs were on their side. (Both of these incidents also demonstrated a real fundamental lack of alerting on the side of the companies managing these services. Our monitors on their services very clearly indicated outage. S3's excuse was that it was "just" our bucket. But the point is that they have no insight into the actual service the end user is perceiving even after the customer raises the support ticket.)

Just recently I was SSHed onto an AKS VM to try to help Azure understand why packets weren't making it from their Virtual network into AKS. Data, from one Azure service to another! (And we didn't figure it out, either; we ended up changing what we were doing anyways, and so the investigation became moot.) And this demonstrates another issue I've hit, a bunch, is that interactions between managed services are also impossible to debug: you end up with two separate services both claiming it isn't them that is out of spec, but nonetheless the end result doesn't work, and nobody on either side has the competence to actually debug the problem.

If you want the downtime to end, it becomes you, the customer that has to debug & troubleshoot these things. And that is a cost that must be accounted for when weighing managed services vs. unmanaged ones.


You just need an extra developer who's an expert with various AWS services to make sure you're using them correctly

However as all developers are AWS experts (at least according to their resume), you have to pay that price regardless


You don't exactly need to be an expert in object storage to stick a file into S3 and download it again some time later, just as 99% of SQL queries don't need a full blown DBA to write efficiently. (In fact, most queries are so simple that most shops have automated them with ORMs and the like)

It is always the 1% of difficult stuff that hits you, but it is very rarely the correct call to optimize for that 1% instead of for the 99% of uses.


Yes? Neither you need to be an expert in file systems to stick a file on a server. And, yes, 99% of the time you don't need a DBA, just install Postgres on said server and go ahead with ORM.

Unless that file is to be read by 1000 users simultaneously - that's where the fun begins ;)

Agree, when you have thousands of simultaneous users, it could be time to think what the hell are you doing.

But the number sounds a bit off… I have fuzzy memories of some fun around that many concurrent requests with Apache 1.3 — that is, one process per user. Doesn't the fun begin quite a bit higher with just any more modern software?


> Doesn't the fun begin quite a bit higher with just any more modern software?

You tell me, I'm not a sysadmin:) I can only attest to the fact that without any kind of RAID or suitable hardware setup (RAM for caching, fast networking etc.), even a dozen people accessing the same file can be very problematic (provided the file is large enough).

As for the use case: digital content creation comes to mind. Sharing assets globally especially in times like these when more people are working remotely is such use case.


a RDS instance is way less labor intensive that properly roll your own backed up, automatically updating server that can be snapshotted at your will and can be upgraded and restored with no downtime, I've spent about six day in five years of continuous operations to keep it running, and that'd probably be two dozen postgres upgrades I'd had to roll and test manually if I went the unmanaged route

Now it isn't cheap, but the five year ownership cost difference compared to iron doesn't cover a month of my salary, so.


>AWS isn't a scam on companies too poor to buy servers.

It often is, for small and medium business (traditional ones) it's often cheaper to rent DC-Space and buy some servers yourself...but hey if you pay and don't do the math, that's your problem.


I have done the maths lots of times and by the time you add up all of the support costs as well as the initial investment and setup, it is rarely, in my opinion, worth it for a small business to even consider doing anything other than renting platform as a service (or SaaS if they can).

I ran a cloud platform production system for 6 years with multiple replicas of all systems and it cost around £400/month, a tiny amount compared to even a single person to manage your own servers.


Physical co-lo is only cheaper if your time is worthless (ditto for Linux-on-the-corporate-desktop, or anything else that’s nominatively gratis).

My current SaaS gig runs in Azure (App Services and containers - no VMs nor “serverless”) and being completely free of the need to do sysadmin work is just so nice. When I was colocating my own rack about a decade ago there was always something that needed my attention, be it security updates, some new unexpected error in the syslogs, RAID drive failing, etc - that I’d need to commute to the DC an hour away or pay the DC’s helping-hands fees. Back when I was younger it was fun and valuable to gain those experiences, but right now I’m a west-coast SWE and no employer wants me to spend my time doing sysadmin/SRE work when my time is literally worth ten times more doing product work and letting MS’ Azure staff keeping things humming along.

For high-availability, AWS/Azure/GCP all the way! There’s no way a micro-ISV SaaS vendor can compete if they have to burn cycles doing unprofitable infrastructure work.


> Physical co-lo is only cheaper if your time is worthless

Physical colocation is nearly always cheaper than AWS for most use cases.

Exceptions are when your usage is so tiny that it doesn't need even a single full-time server, and, when your usage is so erratic that provisioning for the spikes doesn't make sense.

For everyone else, you're paying a very large premium for AWS over what it'd cost to buy and operate some servers.


Oh certainly if you want some beefy server with graphics cards, tons of memory etc, running 24/7, it's probably cheaper to co-locate. A g3s.xlarge costs $13k for 3 years with amazon, I suspect kitting your own server out and hiring 1U of space and a 1G internet access port would be much cheaper over the 3 year contract and not run into nasty bandwidth surprises.

The benefit of AWS-style comes in at

1) Flexibile workflows (I need the grunt on mondays, but not the rest of the week)

2) Tiny workflows (I just want a couple of $5/month VMs in different cities and some DNS to host a couple of toys)

Now if you have the $8/hour self drive, that's great if you use it once a year on a 10 hour trip to a holiday destination. It's awful if you use it for 2 hours a day.


Again, you're completely discounting the ops time involved in "operate some servers" - how many devops/SRE folks do you need to employ to do that? And 24/7 on-call?

I need the exact same devops team I have today. No big difference to them where the boxes sit and who owns them. It's the CFO who sees the bigger difference.

I do save the few staff hours needed on physical maintenance of racking, cabling and replacing hardware. But at typical startup scale that's not much work. In the past I've done it myself on the side. As the company gets larger it takes dedicated staff, but at that point the comparable AWS bill is so large I could pay their full year salary on a single month of AWS bills.


Or when you need anything more than to run a few very basic services ( like a PHP app with apache and mysql).

AWS have managed services for a lot of different things, which save a lot of time on maintenance. Object storage? Message queue? Any type of database? ML? etc. etc. etc.

And of course, there's the scalability. With on-prem it's a careful balancing act of buying enough capacity to have space to expand but not too much to waste it, and you have to regularly keep an eye out lest you hit a limit with multi-week lead times ( e.g. you're out of storage, and buying a new shelf can take weeks to be usable).


Look, i never said aws good/bad, i just said do the math and don't trow your money blindly at some IaaS/PaaS/SaaS etc.

That's really the only answer. Do the research and the math for your own business/use and see if AWS is a better value than colo or your own hardware.

That why i wrote "medium business (traditional ones)", the HW stuff can be done by the DC peoples, one HD as spare (online) and one offline, if HD fault, send email "please exchange HD 5". If you can safe 20k a year it's even probably worth your time...well 60 minutes of it...but maybe not if your one of those rock-star programmers ;)

A lot of people turn subscriptions and pay per use into a tiresome religious argument. I don't want to pay an upfront for-all-time fee for everything I use. Sometimes I want to buy outright. Sometimes I want to rent for a period. And sometimes I want to pay per use. It depends on the thing in question, my usage patterns, and the amount of money involved. (And it can change over time.)

The issue with price discrimination (economic terminology) is that it not only brings the lower end down, but also the higher end up. Think of economy-class airline travel, where how much you pay is essentially determined by how much mental resources you’re willing to spend on planning.

That is assuming businesses are content with only getting the same revenue in the new pricing model and before you factor in issues like “people can’t count money” and “pretty much anything can get gradually normalized, and an undercutter’s market pretty much everything will”. For example, I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I wanted to buy a TV right now... Probably buy a normal underpriced surveillance node and spend the time to isolate it from public networks, but still, that’s depressing.


> Sometimes buying is better than renting. But sometimes there are economies of centralization. AWS isn't a scam on companies too poor to buy servers.

Your example doesn't apply. You don't rent a server from AWS, you pay for their services. If the AWS cost was just getting you a VPS, then you would have a point.

I'm not saying AWS is (always) a good deal, but the cost is quantifiable, compared to buying a server or renting a VPS where all the extra ops work isn't (easily).


Well, in this case, you're renting access to VW's autonomous driving service, which presumably comes with constant updates and improvements and humans behind to intervene in case of necessity ( à la Waymo).

> Well, in this case, you're renting access to VW's autonomous driving service which presumably comes with constant updates and improvements

Yes, which can be bought elsewhere, which was the entire point.

> and humans behind to intervene in case of necessity ( à la Waymo).

I have no idea, does it?


You can buy it, but not use it. That's a really great deal for elsewhere.

Yours is an anti-capitalist take which I don't see as a criticism of VW specifically here.

The reason this service can potentially exist is only because Tesla is charging such a high upfront cost, and because it may be more accessible (or indeed cheaper) for some people to rent on a pay-as-you-go basis.

"This is 100% a way to extract more money from consumers" is true of literally everything that every corporation does. That's the point of its existence.

Are they spinning it to sound good? Of course, that's part of the job. Do you have to take the service if it provides no additional benefit to you? No, you can still buy a Tesla (or not).


Well maybe the daily commute isn’t light usage and therefore isn’t the best case for pay as you go.

There are plenty of other use cases that fit really nicely, replacing a taxi for a night out, occasional long journeys, times when you’re feeling too tired to drive.

But having said that, I don’t see why we wouldn’t just expect to go autonomous all the time. Free or included in the price autonomous driving would be an obvious opportunity for any competitors.


Honestly I think they're both fairytales at this point.

Tesla is WAY further away from fully autonomous driving than they're letting on to their customers, probably because a lot of people would demand refunds on their FSD charges if they knew there was a good chance it wouldn't arrive before the car's end of life in the best case.

Volkswagen's plan here is just as ridiculous. Autonomous driving is economically impossible to make work on a pay-as-you-go model. Who's going to front the cost for all the tech required in the car to allow for automated driving? Volkswagen? the customer?

What if the customer doesn't want automated driving - they're not going to just give you an extra few tens of thousands of dollars for a feature they don't want and would still need to pay extra for anyway.

If VW eats the cost then they'll go out of business making crazy expensive cars that people won't pay to reimburse. (Are you going to pay $8 for every small run in the car anytime you need to go to the shop for something?)

Just copy Waymo and Uber in terms of model (i.e. robotaxi) if you're going to do automated driving. At least that way the cars are consistently in use and generating revenue to cover their eye-watering BOM cost.


As with everything else, quite soon price of hardware required for fully autonomous driving will go down exponentially. While software to support the same will keep increasing. Hence VW action fully justified.

I don’t see how that’s possible.

If VW had:

1) a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles. (2) running for years gathering training data. (3) all over the world.

They would still have a really long way to go to catch up with Tesla - who are still (according to their recent statements to regulators) not even close.


And you've just described a modern SaaS service

If there were no way to turn it off so any driving cost $8.50/hr, I'd be with you.

But if it can be turned off and I can just drive as today as with a normal car, and I'm not paying any extra for the idle feature set, where's the problem?

With the current state of autonomous driving, I'd never use it anyway. No feature I've read about is good enough to just sleep in the backseat. Expecting the driver to be 90%+ idle then, when the "autopilot" fails and I must get instantly up to speed on the full context and state of the car, is both a recipe for disaster and would make me a very nervous driver/passenger (especially when I know that it would fail to recognize things like a semi-truck parked sideways across the road or a lane-splitting concrete barrier dead-ahead).

When and if a true and trustworthy autopilot is available, I'd likely prefer a per hour charge. I'd use it only when I really needed it, such as when I really need the time to keep working on this commute, or I'm really tired and think it's safer to be driven home.

As long as there is variety available in the market, this seems like a find option to have. At some point, when I find myself using it a lot, then it's time to go out and buy a car like a Tesla where it's just included as a package. Of course, if VW are smart, they'll also offer a single-price or monthly fee 'Full-Time Self-Drive' package, so I don't need to go to a competitor to get it.

OTOH, if the industry starts to look like internet security cameras or thermostats, where the there is nothing but a subscription, or televisions where there is almost no way to just get a non-'connected' monitor, I'm totally with you -- this would be a horrible example of exploitative, extractive, rent-seeking corporate behavior.


I'm afraid the single model market is the way of the future. Why wouldn't VW bank on the same enslaving system all other corporations so easily get away with? Other commenters talk about going to the competition if we're unhappy - except the entire competition does exactly the same so there's no alternative. A market opening, would say some? No there's none, the subscription model is too profitable for any CEO to even bother imagining an alternative.

Sadly, you're probably right, some kind of quasi-Nash Equilibrium local maxima that sucks for everyone.

> This is just taking advantage of the poor-middle class' inability to pay a larger upfront cost, to extort them for more over a larger period of time.

How on earth is charging more money for a lower upfront cost "extortion"? If you remove the option, you're not magically granting people the upfront cost, you're just cutting them off from access at all. Are you not aware of the time value of money?


Bill Gates says people shouldn't own land, should always rent. That another company from US (forgot name) that buys houses for 50% higher asking price, now this. These days we rent books, games, flats, soon we'll rent homes and cars. No need to own anything when you can pay more money to rent it.

Sure it this encourages rent seeking behavior and has impact on the your long term wealth.

However if your able to derive utility from the product by renting why should you buy ? It is inefficient way to produce and consume goods.

As a society we already waste too much by buying and hardly using things.

Libraries are great way to reduce the number of actual books printed. Most people don't read most books , having a large unread personal collection is common vanity spend people usually do, which is really a waste of resources.

Many people rent camera/lens when they need them instead of buying expensive gear which is rarely used , these are efficiencies that are good to have.

Not all renting is bad


>As a society we already waste too much by buying and hardly using things.

Yes, but there are things like car or house that are used daily


>Bill Gates says people shouldn't own land, should always rent.

Private ownership of land doesn't work because land value goes up even with no input of the land owner.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Everybod...

You are free to own the house and car.


Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. Same goes for stock markets and crypto currencies.

> land value goes up even with no input of the land owner.

but this happens to other rare objects as well (value goes up without input from the owners), why is land so targeted?

My take is that _everything_ should be ownable, and owned. For example, if someone owned the air you breath, then you would have to pay to breath it. But it would also give incentive for this owner to stop pollution of the air - after all, you would not pay to breath polluted air! So the problem of air pollution is solvable this way.


I'd pay to breathe polluted air if that was the only air that was available to buy in my area. After all, people will choose to die slowly instead of choking to death immediately.

There are real world examples of this. Internet, tap water, etc.

Your philosophy doesn't seem very well thought out.


But the article is not about renting cars. It's about buying a car, and then paying extra per hour for the autonomous driving feature.

Well said, and I think the idea that in the future people will own less and rent more is discussed quite often. In the tech space this has been true for some time, hell, I still remember buying a version of Adobe Master Suite and later lamenting at the switch to subscription model.

I used to be quite negative about of going further down this path, but the way I see it now, what choice do we have in the future? The world population is growing, resources are limited. Is it it feasible that we can all own houses, multiple cars, gadgets etc?

I don't know anymore what the 'right' approach is here. Do we allow people to own and consume as much as they want forever or will the future be radically different in this sense where no one owns anything (car, property or gadgets)? The model that works now may not work forever.

Curious to hear from someone more well versed in this kind of topic on their thoughts?


How is autonomous driving an increasingly scarce resource?

The tech industry, with zero marginal cost, took to the subscription model with great success. Hugely profitable. Now every business looks to work in subscriptions.

I think what we will end up having is that initial players to offer autonomous driving will be able to charge, because it’s scarce and to recoup investment. Eventually the tech will get commoditized as computers grow ever more powerful, and someone will offer a car with free autonomous driving in order to sell more cars.

Subscriptions make the most sense for stuff you buy regularly, and stuff that can’t be monetized other ways (like Netflix). Car manufacturers are neither. Plus they have to compete with likes of Waymo and Uber - are they going to want to charge $8.50 an hr, plus the cost of gas, car, insurance etc, when I could take a self driving Uber for $20/hr?


>How is autonomous driving an increasingly scarce resource?

Space is the scarce resource. In a city that's full of 90% of the time parked cars it doesn't really make sense for everyone to have their own car. Autonomous driving just combines the best of Uber and car sharing.


In a city having excellent public transport makes even more sense than cars :) And outside the city space isn't an issue.

Look around a residential area in Zurich. Not very far from a train station. Yet there are still a lot or cars, and many empty parking space. If a place with such a fantastic public transportation still requires that many cars, what does it tell you about people's habit?

https://www.google.com/maps/@47.4049509,8.5855091,3a,75y,292...


Thats difficult if like in North America you’ve spent the last hundred years building your cities from scratch to suit cars and feel nice and spacious.

Public transport is not the answer to everything. What if you want to visit your relatives outside the city/move some heavy things/...

For visiting outside the city, you temporarily rent a vehicle outside the city, where space isn't a problem.

For moving heavy things: come on, how big of an impact on city traffic is this really?


Or, you accept there is nothing wrong with a few cars in the city and have taxis/car sharing/autonomous cars inside the city for when you need them.

Sure.

The approach presented here is arguably the worst of both worlds, environmentally speaking; pay upfront and own the scarce hardware, rent access to the software.

In the contrary. Somebody always owns it, at least in our economic system. If I had bought/leased a new iPhone I couldn't have bought as many Apple shares during the dip last year. And I could afford to buy during a pandemic because I have no rent to pay. You can't build wealth by wasting money, at least in europe, where there are no Californian companies that pay 100k a year.

> This is completely disingenuous at best, and malicious at worst. This is a perfect example of the boots theory of socioeconomic unfairness [1]. This is just taking advantage of the poor-middle class' inability to pay a larger upfront cost, to extort them for more over a larger period of time.

Self-driving is going to be a service. It'll never be "done". Let's be very clear about this.

So what's actually is happening is Tesla charges you for something it can't give you yet, and something that will require ongoing maintenance i.e. you'd be paying a subscription in the long run again (just wait and see).

VW just starts with the right model from the get go and doesn't set you back $10K on empty promises.

Who is "completely disingenuous" here?


You mean 250 hours a year, not a week. But 31 minutes commuting per day is super low, that's 15 minutes each way. I doubt that is really the average to be honest.

Of course with the pandemic commuting is not a big time sink anymore but I wonder how permanent this will be.


Yeah. I usually think that Americans have an insane tolerance for commuting, but 31 minutes per day is nothing! 15 minutes door-to-door to work is pretty fantastic — so fantastic that I too doubt that it's the average in the US northeast.

Does this average perhaps count people who aren't working as having zero commute?


There is no indication that 31 minutes is per day, so I'd assume it's one way.

But then the calculation on a yearly basis doesn't make sense, it'd have to be doubled.

hyperhopper wrote "* 2 commutes a day".

Ah yes, I see now that it literally says "to work". Thanks!

That average does seem quite low... However, I do live in the greater Toronto area and we're known for having terrible traffic. My pre-covid daily work commute was 2-3 hours on the 401.

I agree that only selling self-driving as a subscription is exploitative, but I generally disagree with your analysis of which model is better for consumers.

First, the subscription model means that VW has an incentive to maintain the feature. Ofc, Tesla has been very generous with updates so far (even to older models!) but the key word is 'generous.' Once you've paid 10k (or more in the future) they have your money and you are at their mercy.

You're correct that, if you wanna self-drive everywhere, the subscription will eventually be a bad deal. But I think Tesla's approach actually keeps a lot more people from taking advantage than VW - because $10k is a lot of money! $8.50/hr is pretty reasonable for, say, a couple that wants to make out on their way to dinner or a parent who needs to keep their kids from fighting. These people don't self drive everywhere, but the option to pay for a bit of self driving is nice.

Or, to put it another way, whether or not Tesla's 10k charge is taking advantage of consumers "less" is based on usage and follow-through. You need a little over 1,000 hours of self-driving to get that 10k charge down to below VW's price of $8.50/hr and Tesla has said the $10k is gonna go up. So if you buy it and you ever stop using it within the first ~4.5 years, you are spending more compared to VW.


Meanwhile, I'm a below-average car user. It would make much more sense for me to use this subscription plan.

Just because it isn't economical for the "average" consumer doesn't mean there isn't a large and profitable niche.


Could be decent for people who only want to use autonomous driving on occasion, not with every commute.

Keep in mind this is a German taking to a German magazine, US business model might be different (But probably not)


Yeah, I don’t own a car, but I easily could. 7 euros per hour is cheaper than any car I could rent for a few hours, and cheaper than almost any ride share option. The only place I’ve been where calling a ride share would maybe be cheaper is Pakistan.

You would still have to buy the car. The 7 euros is just for using the autopilot feature.

Ah. I clearly missed the point of the article.

I dunno, you don’t need FSD like you need boots - it’s a luxury. I don’t think this is a bad idea at all. I consider in many ways VW to be the only real competition to Tesla (vertical integration, fully modular powertrain, etc), so it’s fantastic they are considering offering FSD under a different pricing model.

Whether they actually have the deep technical expertise to implement a FSD worth paying 8/hour for remains to be seen. They seem to also be copying Musk’s aggressive timelines.


These are early adopter products that are, for some good reasons, expressly aimed at a fairly small subset of wealthy and technologically inclined people. Given the nascent state of the technology and the extremely high liability, they probably wouldn't want all of their customers to drive this even if it was magically cheap.

In the medium run, like GPS technology, competition will drive the cost of autonomy down to practically nothing and it will be enjoyed by working class people for free.


You don’t have to use it ALL the time, right? I mean just use it for two hours a year and you’ll pay a lot less than thousands of dollar up front

I think this type of pricing aligns incentives better than what Tesla is doing. With Tesla's model, if you don't get what you expected out of the self driving features, sorry, but they already have your money. With VW, they're incentivized to continue improving it and convincing people to use it, since it's more money in their pocket if they do.

> inability to pay a larger upfront cost, to extort them for more over a larger period of time.

I say, the more competition for banks, the better.


Yes seriously this is A level BS. I in fact own an ID.4 Max, and while it's a swell car you hardly save much buying this over a same class Tesla 3/Y where I live.

It's clear that the autonomous driving has to execute locally on the car, so there is no physical basis to any "cost saving" other than sales mechanism optimization. Boo.


At the same time it's clear that autonomous driving is something that's going to need to be continually improved with over-the-air updates. This isn't a subscription for heated seats, it's something that you want them continually developing, month-in and month-out, and continually updating maps and stuff.

I'm fine with buying their software outright at the cost ammortized over multi-million car fleets. We're talking single-digit thousands of dollars worst case.

> This is just taking advantage of the poor-middle class' inability to pay a larger upfront cost, to extort them for more over a larger period of time.

At least you still have a choice. In the software world, this freedom of choice is coming to an end, with Microsoft, Adobe, Autodesk and many others discontinuing "pay once own forever" products.


The same will happen to other markets if we don't vote with our wallets.

Philips is already planning to offer "Light as a service" to consumers. Citing circularity concerns, after all the incentive is now on them to make lightbulbs last as long as possible rather than as short as possible.

But really it means they've been cheating us with planned obsolescence for years.

I really don't want to be dependent on monthly contracts for every little thing. Never. I spend 20 euros per year on lightbulbs and I have a lot of smart ones. I'm sure any subscription plan won't be that cheap. Because the whole point of subscription models is for the company to make lots of money while doing nothing.


Who is responsible for maintenance of the car and the AI software?

If the passenger should be doing the updates to the AI, then they should own the car outright and have the right to repair it.

If it is VW, then VW should align incentives well towards software maintenance by charging either an hourly or a monthly rate.


I see your point but I think you have to factor in:

1) The driver's time. If I can read on my way to work, that's a win. Price effectively reduced.

2) Time saved not getting an oil change, new tires, other maintenance, etc. Price drops a bit more.

3) I don't have to buy a "family sized" car that's only fully utilized a small percentage of the time. That over-pay / under-realized has a cost associated with it. Instead, I simply hail what I need when I need it.

4) Along the same lines as #1, family QT increases when I use a family vehicle.

5) When I'm able to rightly size my vehicle, there are eco savings as well.

6) Or perhaps I'm too old to drive and owning a car doesn't make sense either. If someone else has to shuttle me around, their time is a cost.

Again. I agree. Companies profit from some products and markets more than others. That said, these vehicles and biz models are not the past and can - and will? - change the future.


I think you're missing what the post was about. 2, 3 and 5 seem to assume VW is talking about renting the car, but it's about subscribing to the self-driving feature. 1, 4 and 6 are the same for either buying or subscribing the service.

Ok. Fair enough. I'll swing again...

If you're buying a VW...alreaady a heft sum, tacking on some added fee and saying that it's disadvantageous the disadvantaged feel like a stretch.


Supposedly an average of 293 hour per year or almost 25k over 10 years. They also want to disable part of the battery and rent it back to you too.

We ought wait until they manufacture them then ban import and hope they go bankrupt.


So the hourly fee is only on the surcharge? And one still needs to pay for the car?

Or if the car costs 20k, plus 10k surcharge it is more like 13 years until the rent reaches the price. Also what about insurance and maintainence?


You could be wrong and he could be wrong.

Every company will try to extract money from their customers and market normally decides who is correct.

I see cost optimalisation for some people and none for most.


You're not capturing all the expenses to car ownership:

Insurance Fuel/charging Excise tax Parking Maintenance Cleaning

And most importantly, the hassel to deal with the above.


If I understand it correctly, that would be the fee for the self-driving feature, not the entire car. I suppose $8.50 per hour would be a reasonable rate for a car rental, although daily rates should be less.

I'm not sure what the problem is. Isn't extracting more money the point of basically every company?

Over the course of last 7 years living in NY I paid for rentals + uber + taxis way more than if I just bought a car in the beginning. Yet I'm going to buy a car anyway, it's simply too much hassle.


I’d me interested to see this math for subscriptions like Netflix, Spotify and AWS.

> This is just taking advantage of the poor-middle class' inability to pay a larger upfront cost, to extort them for more over a larger period of time.

Is it unreasonable, though? I can sell you access to my blog articles as they come out, or I can sell you access to all future articles, in one lump sum, now? Both of those have pros and cons.

I'm sure someone will come up with a different payment model (indeed Tesla already has?) and if it makes a difference to people, they can vote with their wallets? It would be worrying if there were only one option.

You're right about why the firms do it, of course. They want to extract as much money as they can. But there's also some value in being able to get anything at all, isn't there? Eg I can rent a seat on a plane, but most people can't buy a plane.

It's expensive to be poor, as they say. The biggest example is of course rent vs buy a house. But also things like being able to buy bulk toilet roll has a net effect on the cost.


When I commuted downtown, it was $15 for parking, $6 in gas, and about 90 minutes round trip...so an additional $12.75?

Not to get into hourly wages, but it doesn't sit right when X% of your day is spent simply paying off your ride to work.


How about compared to typical American car loan?

What do you call a model where you sell "fully self driving capable hardware" that isn't not once, but about 2.5 times?

So a car is free to operate?

No fuel/electricity

No road tax

No insurance

No maintenance


No, they're talking about a subscription model for a feature. Read the article.

You're right.

I agree with you. But this system is called capitalism for a reason. If you do not have capital you loose...

Don't forget to make your payment for having commented today.

But it's called Volkswagen for a reason too ;)


The Name "Germany" is from a much different era too ;)

>The English word Germany derives from the Latin Germania, which came into use after Julius Caesar adopted it for the peoples east of the Rhine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany#Etymology


> The average person in the northeast spends 31 minutes commuting per day [2], for simplicity that's 0.5 hours,* 2 commutes a day, * 5 days a week, * 50 weeks a year (assuming 2 weeks vacation), is 250 hours commuting a week.

You already said it's 31 minutes of commuting per day, so why are you doubling it in your subsequent calculation?


Did you go to the source? It’s 31 minutes commuting to work, most people, I believe, tend to commute back from work too. It could have been more clear, but it’s hardly difficult to understand.

Locally a new ID.4 costs somewhere around €40-60k. Does VW really want me to spend €40k+ on a car, pay all maintenance, all insurance, all electricity, storage/parking, charging infrastructure, etc and then still pay 8€ per hour to use a main feature of the car? If I do a 5h drive it would be cheaper to pay the train instead of taking the car I have bought. Absolutely mad.

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