back to article Seeing as everyone loves cloud subscriptions, get ready for car-as-a-service future

Automakers can't wait to launch lucrative subscription services, such as autonomous driving assistance features – and semiconductor giants say they are providing the tools to make that happen. Intel, Nvidia, and Arm, to name three, are designing chipsets, frameworks, and services so cars can be improved through software …

  1. DS999 Silver badge

    Paying to beta test

    A not even alpha quality product. Tesla is giving the rest of the tech world a run for their money in most shameful business practices!

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Paying to beta test

      I beg to differ. The existing cloud services companies are well ahead of the curve when it comes to shonky business practises - unilateral and retroactive on the fly license/ToS changes.

      The economic driver for services is not the same between larger corporations and individuals. The tax model encourages businesses to go for opex over capex and when they need something, they need it to be available or risk revenue. This isn't true for most individuals. They might go for a video streaming subscription because the cost is inconsequential and there are ongoing beneficial updates in the form of new content, but I don't think that model translates to cars. The payments are large which means people start doing the maths and many people do look at how much they can sweat the asset. The viable target market is the people who buy a new car every three years. I don't think that's most people.

      1. NoneSuch Silver badge

        Screw Subscriptions

        Banks used to make money by paying a small interest rate on customer savings, lending that money to others, charging interest and trousering the difference. Today, they charge billions in fees to the point where I need to keep just over 65,000 Pounds in my savings account for the interest generated to equal my monthly account fee. The bank says if I'm not happy I can go to another bank who all charge exactly the same fee structure within a few pence.

        We used to be able to buy software for a fixed amount of cash, then use it as we saw fit. Now monopolies are forcing subscriptions, not because it's good for consumers, but to enrich their bottom lines with a continuous revenue stream. Cloud services hold your own data for ransom and if you don't render unto Caesar on a monthly basis then you lose access. They are suspending on-prem versions of their software forcing businesses into their Clouds. None of this benefits the customer, regardless of what the marketing hype says. Instead of having our data flow over a stable and secure 1GB network, it is now over the general Internet and subject to the ups and downs of TCP/IP. We get up to a dozen alerts of various Cloud service outages daily and bandwidth is never fixed or assured.

        Our IT department was forced to move our mail/collaboration services to the Cloud by a group of company accountants and "progressive" VP's (That's the name they applied to themselves) who wanted "real-time" Cloud collaboration. Not one person in IT agreed with that decision, nor were they consulted. Today those accountants / VP's are the loudest complainers when their multiple pivot table linked 650 MB Excel files are slow to load. "It was never this slow before!" They write in ticket emails. They drank their own Kool-Aid and hate the taste, then they blame IT. We've lost a lot of good people who gave up in disgust at this behaviour.

        One resignation letter of someone who spent 40 years in IT and had enough, said it best before he retired. "We are a client facing business dealing with literal life and death scenarios daily. You have placed both core business processes and contact with our clients in the hands of another company and now pay them monthly to maintain it. If that service ever fails and inevitably it will, people will die. The cost to corporate reputation will far exceed any loss on the GL. I do not wish to see that day."

        Cloud services are a Briar Patch. Easy to upload into it and very difficult to get data out or transfer to a competitor. You can go to a rival Cloud provider, but they charge subscriptions as well. Your only choice is who you give your money too; after that you are screwed.

        One day, and I suspect soon, some hax group will gain full access to back end cloud systems and cost the subscribing companies trillions in losses. That will motivate a swing back to on-prem, but only when the accountants are ankle deep in blood. And, of course, they will blame IT for it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Paying to beta test

      You haven't been around long enough then. There's this little outfit in Redmond..

  2. Denarius Silver badge

    the old joke becomes fact

    Rewinding to 1990s about difference between cars and Windows 95, looks like we will see cars stop for no reason, need restarting and this will be seen as normal. Definitely thinking about getting a ten year old diesel with at most a Satnav for next transport. Having a car demanding its own phone is too much like raising a teenager again

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Definitely thinking about getting a ten year old diesel

      very soon you'll only be doing that, THINKING about getting a 10 yr old diesel. Unless you're one of those people who can afford anything and ah, yeah, that 10 year old diesel is what I'm missing in my collection, to drive around my estate...

      1. Denarius Silver badge

        Re: Definitely thinking about getting a ten year old diesel

        oh well, could get a tractor road registered as a fallback. Do for short trips and has the advantage of threatening idiots in 4WDs who ignore road rules

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: the old joke becomes fact

      I am sticking with my 18 Y/O Diesel.

      Only 5 ECUs to worry about.

      Mainly annoyed I can't remap the gearbox.

      Engine IS remapped.

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: the old joke becomes fact

      If what my brother tells me is about to happen in the UK then you'll be lucky to get a ten year old diesel anything and if you are lucky to get one you might find its banned from many cities.

      I do predict a 'robust' market in used vehicles. After all, a car like a Morris 1000 can be kept going indeficitely if you know the right people. The only issue will be that legislation will continually clamp down on using old vehicles in the name of environmentalism or road safety.

  3. Electronics'R'Us

    We have heard this one before

    We asked the processor core designer how it intends to prevent miscreants from hijacking over-the-air updates to compromise people's vehicles. A spokesperson told us "the adoption of zero-trust security architecture in the automotive space is critical" to thwarting these supply-chain attacks.

    I would get out the popcorn, but I would probably be late to the first crack of the over the air update.

    Building security into the system should already have been defined; as always it will be an afterthought bolt-on.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: We have heard this one before

      > it will be an afterthought bolt-on

      You're an optimist.

      Security costs money, while saying "We take our customers' lives and security very seriously" is free.

      Bean counters will never agree to waste money on stuff which don't yield a return on investment. At least not before there is a big uproar in public opinion, and soon-to-be-reelected politicians make it compulsory.

    2. nijam Silver badge

      Re: We have heard this one before

      > the adoption of zero-trust security architecture in the automotive space is critical

      Starting with zero trust for the self-driving hardware and software, I should say.

  4. Yet Another Hierachial Anonynmous Coward

    F*** right off

    go and F*** right off, right now and take your subscription software services to make a car go with you.

    Design the thing and test it properly in the first place,

    Oh, and please use a standard aperture and ISO connector so I can throw you defective 4 year old dysfunctional radio in the bin and replace it with something that works and might last the lifetime of the car.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: F*** right off

      Dead on. I suppose they can upgrade/break the vehicle entertainment or climate control systems and such over the air without serious consequences, but if they try that with safety related features, the results are likely going to be a field day for morticians, and ambulance chasing lawyers. Elon Musk doesn't understand that. Yet. But the rest of the automotive industry likely does. I think we're likely looking at the fantasies of marketeers here, not the future.

      The one hope "they" might have of pulling this nefarious scam off would seem to be maps. If future cars are dependent on maps for routine tasks, maybe they can sell the notion that having the very latest map is essential to safety and vehicle operators must pay generously for regular updates. But they better be damn sure that they can deliver valid maps reliably and never end up with cars with no usable maps at all or vectoring tens of thousands of commuting vehicles onto some dead end street instead of the bridge or tunnel entrance four streets over.

      1. Electronics'R'Us

        Re: F*** right off

        Having been in the third party aftermarket for vehicles, I kept an eye on news about maps and so forth.

        I can't count the number of times drivers (in particular large trucks) got themselves stuck because they followed the satnav instructions; I strongly doubt any 'AI' (which isn't intelligent in the least) would do any better.

        I was returning to the office with co-worker from London (returning to Cambridge) and on the way up the A10 (which had been redone to full dual carriageway) the satnav kept telling us to pull across over the oncoming traffic lanes to where the road had previously been.

        I shudder to think that the satnav instructions might get higher priority than the sensors.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: F*** right off

          "I can't count the number of times drivers (in particular large trucks) got themselves stuck because they followed the satnav instructions;"

          To be fair, that's often because the truck driver or haulage company cheaped out and bought consumer SatNavs instead paying for the ones that include narrow lane and height restriction warnings.

          1. P. Lee

            Re: F*** right off

            That's not the only problem. GPS seems to fail with lots of tall buildings close-by.

        2. Aitor 1

          Re: F*** right off

          Never use the car satnav. I just updated mine.. and now maps are "2019/2020".. way better to use google maps or a dedicated program if you dont want problems.

          1. Andrew999

            Re: F*** right off

            For years car makers have been using their map systems for more than navigating to your destination. You don't get this capability by using google maps. For example Mercedes uses your route to determine how best to optimise battery use - when to use electric, when best to optimise regeneration etc. And its three years old. The one before that had no electric motors, but could use your route to e.g. shut the windows when you went through a tunnel and return them to position when you left it (as required in e.g. Switzerland). And of course my partner loves the car knowing where it is, as the Mercedes app tells her when I'll be home :)

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: F*** right off

              Ha ha. Spy in the cockpit instead of the boot.

              But e.g. Toyota Prius sat nav is linked to the steering (electric position sensor) and the wheel rotation counters (highly accurate due to their torque sensors and all that), so that *when* GPS goes down, the navigation system still has a very good idea of where the car is. I once navigated the last quarter mile of a route (to a friend's house down some barely lit country roads) in fog so dense that one couldn't see 30 feet in front. I had the window down and was following the kerb at walking pace and the turn diagram was accurate still down to 2-3 yards, which TBH is probably the map data itself!

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: F*** right off

      We have ways of making you comply. Sure, you can replace the radio. But we'll replace the radio service with a streaming service.

      Its going to be interesting watching how this evolves. I'm expecting a Mad Max type of future where there's constant tension between vehicle owners who resort to ever more exotic modifications to keep their cars running and law enforcement (as the legal/enforcement arm of the Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders) clash in a battle of wits and will.

  5. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    You will own nothing and be happy

    It seems like there is an agenda in many countries to eliminate self-employment and ability to create a new business, through excessive regulation, high taxes and other barriers.

    People are meant to work for those big corporations and earn slave wages, that won't allow them to afford products to own.

    People will have no choice but to use subscriptions, which is another pillar of modern slavery.

  6. devin3782 Silver badge

    No, No, No stop the world I want to get off now. So corporations have nearly managed to recreate slavery outstanding, we really are asleep at the wheel

  7. ThatOne Silver badge


    Your very own car was a strong symbol of freedom, in that it allowed you to move around freely, at your own discretion. For many people it was even the only freedom they could realistically pretend to.

    Now corporate greed is about to take this away, by making your ability to move depend on you paying various subscriptions and quietly allowing them your monitor and monetize your whole life.

    They would ask for your firstborn, but they have already taken him/her long ago...

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Monetization

      It's more reason to hang onto and maintain an OLD car that runs on GASOLINE, has NO integrated navi-guessionsystem, and behaves as you would expect it to when you work the controls. You MIGHT even be able to work on it YOURSELF.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Monetization

        That's true, but realistically it can go only so far: There comes a point in car's age where the average user can't or won't manage any more. Not everybody is able/willing to search for spare parts and/or do maintenance himself. Most users just want a car to drive around, not to spend time on. While for some it's a pleasure, for others it's a chore.

        Also governments worldwide are slowly making sure old cars are phased out. Sorry, it's an uphill battle, one that is already lost. The few points of resistance won't really matter in the big picture, especially when there is so much money involved.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    FaaS ?

    Right now Fuel as a Service would be nice.

  9. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge
    Thumb Down I already had a choice to pay for onstar on my existing car (emergency assistance, some app so I could unlock my doors and for some reason check the fuel level from my phone, traffic alerts. and the gps navigation would be done via onstar instead of an on-board system.) Not interested in paying subscription fees for things like this thanks.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge


      At some point you'll have to, lest your car just turns into an oversized paperweight.

      Nobody likes to pay for stuff which was previously free/included, so the only way to make this work is to make the subscription model the only option. My way or (not) the highway.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and yet

    people no longer bat an eyelid, and search for the pitchfork as they have to pay much much more for subscription of their photoshop or office, than when they had it on their cd or dvd. I'm sure this is just the beginning of a long, profitable (for some!) road to subscription bliss. Once this model gets embedded in the car industry, there are endless possibilites on the horizon :(

  11. TRT Silver badge

    Brings a whole new meaning...

    To installing driver updates.

  12. EBG

    FFS No.

    Just. No.

  13. Martin M

    Software defined computer

    Traditionally known as a … computer.

    Gives a whole new meaning to “rolling release”, particularly if the brakes stop working.

  14. Smirnov

    Too Late...

    BMW has been offering Apple CarPlay as a subscription for a while, and is already working on offering other options such as heated seats on a subscription model.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Too Late...

      Heated seats? Pah! I just take a pile of cash and set light to it!

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Too Late...

      But heated seats are hardware, it needs it be fitted. So does subscription mean they fit the mats?

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: Too Late...

        Surprisingly, no. In Ye Olde Days, it was a significant part of the car’s bill-of-materials cost to include hardware features like heated seats, so a manufacturer would obviously only fit them on vehicles where the customer would pay for them. These days, it’s often only a negligible cost - or even, cheaper - to include those hardware features in every car built (e.g. no need to maintain multiple SKUs of seats, software-remappable touchscreen controls, simplified wiring loom, etc) and charge the punter an “unlock fee” to use the stuff they already have. Tesla are masters at this.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Tesla...

          Let's hope it doesn't crash, then!

  15. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Who owns the car anyway?

    It looks like it is the makers of the thing and not you.

    The subscriptions are more like an ongoing licence fee to continue to use the thing. You might own the title but... your car can be bricked at any time by the maker.

    Welcome to the Machine.

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