In context: It seems more and more these end users cannot reliably own anything. Many game and software developers have moved to games/software-as-a-service models (GaaS and SaaS, respectively). Manufacturers could apply the same idea to anything requiring firmware. We live in a time where a company has more control over our purchased devices than we do.
A car owner recently posted a video showing that this philosophy could be bleeding over into the automotive industry. On the r/mildlyinfuriating subreddit, the user posted a video showing how at least one button on the dash of his Audi Q4 E-Tron does not work because he had not paid for it.
The control in question is labeled "Sync" and is tied to the air conditioning system. It is used to toggle Audi's tri-zone climate control. Instead of simply not working, the button spits out a message on the infotainment center's screen saying, "Note: The function has not been purchased."
The Drive notes that in the US and UK, tri-zone climate control comes standard on Audi vehicles. However, in the user's home country of Denmark, it's a $758 add-on feature. The owner did not pay for it because he did not expect to use it, but he was surprised to see that fact pop up on the screen.
The post received nearly 120,000 upvotes in the last two weeks with thousands of comments — many of them snarky jabs at Audi for bringing microtransactions to cars. The message does not contain an option to purchase the feature, but there is no reason it couldn't. Manufacturers often release over-the-air updates to their vehicles to add functionality to them. So there is no reason they couldn't change the firmware to enable such a feature.
It raises the question of whether we will start seeing future vehicles with a list of options that we can purchase after the initial sale. A more important question is whether carmakers will start pushing subscription-based services that were once basic features of their vehicles.
Commenters on the post joke about paying to turn on airbags, but a more logical application would be turning once-standard features, like air conditioning, into subscription services. It sounds ridiculous, but it doesn't seem so far-fetched if you consider that many game and software developers have moved toward GaaS and SaaS models. There isn't anything holding carmakers back from doing this other than it's so far been untested waters. Nobody wants to suffer the public outrage at being the first.
"You will own nothing, and you will be happy."