Technische Universität Berlin researchers claim they uncovered an interesting method to access Tesla’s software for free. It apparently enabled them to unlock optional features that the automaker offers for a costly price under its subscription model.
It must be noted that the researchers did not intend to exploit or enable others to access Tesla’s electric vehicle models. Instead, they primarily aim to offer owners access to built-in car features without paying extra.
That said, the researchers’ discovery may impede most automakers’ strategy to profit more from subscriptions.
As mentioned, this hack only involved unlocking paid features of Tesla EV models like heated seats, etc.
The researchers also emphasized that they do not aim to give outsiders access to others’ Teslas. In fact, they were not an outsider in this project, as they own the Tesla EV they experimented on.
“We are not the evil outsider, but we’re actually the insider, we own the car. And we don’t want to pay these $300 for the rear heated seats.”Christian Werling, one of the researchers at Technische Universität Berlin (via TechCrunch)
Werling further explained the exact procedure they took to hack their Tesla vehicle. He asserted that they changed the voltage of the infotainment system’s AMD processing unit.
“If we do it at the right moment, we can trick the CPU into doing something else. It has a hiccup, skips an instruction, and accepts our manipulated code. That’s basically what we do in a nutshell.”Christian Werling, one of the researchers at Technische Universität Berlin (via TechCrunch)
By using the “voltage glitching” method, they were able to gain access to the system to implement lasting changes like activating heated seats, full self-driving beta, and even enhancing performance. As we all know, these innovative features are only available for owners willing to pay a high price even if their EVs are already fitted with such technologies.
The researchers further noted that the hacking procedure would only be “patchable” if Tesla updates the infotainment system’s processor. Therefore, this hack would work for all Tesla models already produced.
That said, the researchers claim that Tesla would need to replace their EVs’ hardware to mitigate the jailbreak.
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The researchers hacking strategy to unlock paid features on Tesla EVs will undoubtedly spoil long-term subscription models. It may force automakers to stop asking for extra payments for such technologies and just include their prices in the purchase price.
The Technische Universität Berlin hackers will presented all their discoveries at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas this week.