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Tesla goes bankrupt, or desides to go HP or Samsung... what happens to my car?

Discussion in 'Tesla' started by bcsteeve, May 5, 2017.

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  1. bcsteeve

    bcsteeve Member

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    A thought crossed my mind about a year ago, but I just dismissed it. Now that a corporate decision by Samsung just left my TV partially inoperable, it crossed my mind again.

    Let me start with the analogies:

    I have a 2009-ish HP laptop that was running Windows 7. It worked fine. Windows 10 comes around and I get this constant "want to upgrade?" message along with assurances that "your machine is ready" and "you can always go back". After upgrading, the fan won't stop going full speed. It is a driver issue, but HP no longer supports my model and they suggest I go back. After the rollback, the machine won't boot. No help from HP. Eventually I put Linux on it but I'm on my own.

    Not so bad?

    I had a French made handheld media player (can't remember the company). Worked great. The company went out of business. A few weeks later, I get a message on my machine that it can't contact the server and it won't function at all. Completely useless piece of equipment from that point on.

    Now my Samsung TV... I paid extra for a model with a camera specifically so I could use Skype on it. That worked fine, until Samsung and Skype decide not to get along and they cancel the service, rendering my camera useless. That's my camera. I paid for it. Why does their decision get to waste my money?

    Whatever, these are all minor. A car is different. And a Tesla is a different kind of car. There's a lot of dependence on the software... but how much? Losing the ability to use one's tens or hundreds of thousand dollar car is not minor.

    I began to wonder, what happens if Tesla goes bankrupt tomorrow? Will the cars continue to work indefinitely, without being able to communicate with central servers? When we use software, we do not own it. We only license to use it. Tesla, being in many ways more of a software company than a car company (certainly by background, if nothing else), are we subject to that same regime?

    I get that the cars wouldn't continue to get better with software upgrades, but could we possibly find ourselves in a situation where we suddenly have multi-tonne paperweights due to software license expiration/revocation?

    I'm not trying to be an annoying downer doom-and-gloom guy, really. It was just a nagging question that I've never found an answer to and wondered if anyone had any insight.

    Basically... I wonder if Tesla has considered - in the total design of their hardware/firmware/software - the ensured continuation of operation of their products beyond their own existence.
     
  2. Hixson

    Hixson Member

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    Interested in the responses to this. However, Id like to think Tesla isn't going bankrupt lol. Id also like to think that whoever took over their product line in any event would continue to support the line of cars already sold?
     
  3. Barklikeadog

    Barklikeadog Member

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    If you recall, when GM went belly up and was bailed out, they had to cover their warranties/service.
    Tesla has value to where someone would step in and keep it going as they would inherit the obligations.
    If another party didn't promise to honor those obligations then they would be SOL
     
  4. Haxster

    Haxster Member

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    There are enough Teslas out there already that supporting them would probably be a good business for some independents...at least for a while. And salvaged cars could provide parts...for a while.

    My guess is that at least a minimal level of software support would be taken on by whoever bought the rights to this from the bankruptcy. There would likely be a charge to owners for this service.

    It's also possible that the bankruptcy court would order that the cars get a final update that would allow them run without the need to communicate with a "mothership" server. This would basically let them operate like >99% of the other cars on the road.
     
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  5. jelloslug

    jelloslug Active Member

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    You obviously won't have access to anymore software updates and it's questionable if the center screen nav and voice controls would still work. As for functioning as a car, it would not change at all.
     
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  6. sdorn

    sdorn Director of Awesome

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    I think this is a valid concern, and one that is not too distant from a possible reality. Tesla continues to lose money, and it is certainly possible that funding sources could dry up due to a severe downturn in the economy or the emergence of additional competition from other major auto manufacturers as well as from other startup technology companies.

    I don't know how dependent the car is on Tesla servers. It seems that it would likely continue to drive, at least in the short term, but many features may stop working and the supercharger network could be abandoned. Also, if Tesla went out of business there may possibly be no source for replacement parts in the event of something breaking down or in the event of an accident, short of salvage yards.
     
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  7. bcsteeve

    bcsteeve Member

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    Sure, I'd think that too. But... could Tesla survive a Samsung Note 7 incident with its Model 3? Let's imagine that somehow Tesla missed something (as Samsung did) and late at night Model 3's started catching on fire while charging. Impossible? Well, I'm sure Samsung supporters thought so up until it wasn't impossible. Likely? Hell no, particularly in the wake of that Samsung incident. But pretend it did happen. And a massive recall was required. Could they survive? Maybe. I don't know. But I'd feel a lot more comfortable knowing for sure that if they did go under, that my car didn't effectively become useless at the same time.

    I'd like to think that a court ordered last-update - as Haxter posited - would be a safety net. But which court? The Supreme Court in the USA has no influence on what happens in any other country. And, if the company has already gone under and there are no funds remaining, a court order doesn't necessarily actually get enacted.

    My biggest hope is that Elon reads this and decides to tell us why we shouldn't be even slightly worried :) I'd like to know they've already thought of this.
     
  8. bcsteeve

    bcsteeve Member

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    Re: parts shortages... assuming the Model 3 comes out and isn't the reason for the bankruptcy (ie. it isn't an abject failure), I don't see parts being a problem for Model 3 owners. Enough cars will be on the road that OEM manufacturers will find value in supplying parts. But Model S/X? Volume might not be high enough to be attractive.

    Superchargers will also not be a problem (again assuming hundreds of thousands of Model 3s are there), as other companies find value in supplying alternatives. They'd probably be salivating for a Tesla failure just so they could step in.

    Of course, if the Model 3 is a success, then I suspect bankruptcy becomes much less likely (but who knows, if he spends too much on tunnel boring equipment lol)

    The problem I see is the proprietary software rendering the car non functional. I don't know that's the case, certainly, but I also don't know that it isn't. Maybe someone has taken their car "off the grid" for an extended time and would know? But I doubt that. If anyone's ever stolen one, they'd have to... but I doubt they're going to come on here and provide me an answer lol
     
  9. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    #9 Skotty, May 5, 2017
    Last edited: May 5, 2017
    If Tesla goes bankrupt, your car will likely either be submerged under rising sea levels or slowly falling apart atop the ruins of a once great civilization that failed to address serious global environmental risks.

    Yes, this was a shameless satirical (I hope!) plug about, despite a lot of generic support, Tesla seems to be the only serious company operating within a viable financial construct and building physical things that can actually be used for, and for the expressed purpose of, addressing switching our civilization to clean and sustainable energy.
     
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  10. sdorn

    sdorn Director of Awesome

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    This is the part that worries me, as I'm not sure they are operating within a viable financial construct. They are losing money and are only able to sustain operations by continuously raising additional capital. Many things could happen that might or might not be Tesla specific that could affect their ability to continue raising capital.
     
    • Disagree x 3
  11. bcsteeve

    bcsteeve Member

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    Thanks for that Skotty. And actually, that bit of humor does much more to alleviate my concern than you might think. It was a reminder that trying is important, in of itself.
     
  12. Saghost

    Saghost Active Member

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    I don't think it's a realistic possibility in the next few years.

    As for the effects, I think they'd be manageable, especially if Tesla accepted the situation and made some efforts to release control at the end.

    We have a few folks on the forum now who understand the car's software and can get in and modify it at will.

    All the remote commands go through a Tesla server, so you'd lose them unless they can be reprogrammed or the server can be maintained on crowd funding.

    The map might or might not continue to work - I know it's basically Google maps, but I'm not sure if it is going through a Tesla server.

    Someone would have to arrange cellular contracts for the cars, and you'd have to start paying for that service.

    If the cell part is sorted out, the streaming music would be fine - you might have to create an account and enter those credentials, but it is all third party services anyway.

    Not sure what would happen to Superchargers - maybe they could be sold to Chargepoint or EVGo or the like during the bankruptcy and would then continue to operate, with higher fees as a for profit network?

    Even if they went away, with a CHAdeMO adapter you'd be able to continue to do trips, using the new VW stations and the current network.

    Obviously, anything Tesla promised to develop that hadn't arrived would go away (like full self driving,) and you'd probably be stuck on whatever firmware you have unless the aforementioned experts manually update cars.

    The installed base is already large enough that I could see an open source firmware development organization forming to develop new firmware to be hand loaded onto the cars - or even establishing a new automatic OTA system on a subscription basis after the Tesla restrictions are manually defeated on your car.

    There would undoubtedly be turmoil for a while, but ultimately I don't think the future would be bad - the third parties and owners would step up, and there are a lot of motivated owners with a lot of skill with computers. :)
     
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  13. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    They have survived in a noble mission where most other attempts have crumbled. They may not be rock solid financially yet, but if it makes anyone feel better, they do have a notably strong loyal following who want to see them succeed. So long as Tesla is the only company out there building gigafactories, desirable sustainable energy cars, sustainable energy infrastructure, etc, I'll throw every dollar I have at them (if I have to) to ensure they stay afloat. I can't imagine I'm the only one.
     
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  14. bcsteeve

    bcsteeve Member

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    I suspect you may be overestimating the abilities of these "motivated owners" :) With a few exceptions, companies tend to keep their firmware secrets pretty close to their chest. Unless Tesla were to magnanimously open the firmware up upon their failure, it is very unlikely anyone would ever be able to effect any sort of future firmware update. And I'm not sure it would be morally possible for Tesla to do that, even if it wanted. Opening up the firmware to owners would also be opening it up to people who would look to exploit it for creating problems. "hacking" a self driving car could... well, it could be disastrous. Even taking out the nefarious element, just accidental coding mistakes could be very problematic. No group of motivated owners has the billions of dollars it would take to seriously implement updates.

    But updates were never something I would expect in this scenario. I would obviously no longer expect my car to improve. My query is whether or not it would continue to function as a car... and I don't think that is assured.

    However, I am personally satisfied that it is worth the risk, and I thank you and Skotty for reminding me of the importance of supporting a positive effort... even if that effort should ultimately be unsuccessful. Tesla has more than proven it has earned every opportunity to succeed.

    Still... Elon... pop your head in here and tell us what would happen :)
     
  15. Haxster

    Haxster Member

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    Or, with the world leaders we have now, some seriously bad near-term global events.:(
     
  16. kort677

    kort677 Active Member

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    in order to see one possible outcome if tesla closed up shop today you could goggle delorean and see how owners of that limited production car have fared post bankruptcy and dissolution of the company.
     
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  17. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

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    You're welcome. I'll admit, I myself sometimes have concerns about warranty, service, etc, that I might not have with a more established vehicle brand, but all I have to do is think about the mission that I very much believe in, and it reminds me that, at least for me, the value of the mission exceeds any added risk.
     
  18. bcsteeve

    bcsteeve Member

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    Well, that's probably not the best analogy. Really, we can't look to any other car for a suitable comparison. With a Delorean, you just keep it filled with gas and it continues to go until it wears out. Sure, maybe you can't get parts, but that's not the same thing as suddenly getting in your car and not being able to use it because a software license is no longer able to validate itself with a centralized service. If that's even the case. I suspect it is to some degree.

    I have some software (my 3D CAD platform), as an example, that I can't use when my Internet connection goes down... even though the software isn't dependent (functionality wise) on the Internet. It is simply anti-piracy measures that force the software to be able to validate the license. I have others (Corel suite comes to mind) that attempts to validate, but if an Internet connection isn't there, I'm annoyed by a popup but otherwise I can continue. Still others that don't even attempt to validate. The question remains: which is the Tesla?
     
  19. jelloslug

    jelloslug Active Member

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    You car will work just fine as a car without an internet connection.
     
  20. Saghost

    Saghost Active Member

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    We know that the cars work fine without an internet connection for at least short periods - and there's never been any indication that I've seen/read anywhere of a phone home logic bomb.

    I'm pretty sure you could continue driving and charging until something breaks, no matter what - I didn't address this before because I didn't realize you were concerned about it - I thought it was a given, so I focused on the external services that improve the driving experience instead.

    Even when things break, we've been told that the car is very easy to work on, and I know bootleg versions of the service manual exist now, and as I said earlier, there are a few gurus around that can code modules to the car.

    Parts might be a problem, especially shortly after a bankruptcy, but there are cars in junkyards to get them off of, and as I said in the longer term there are enough cars in the hands of determined owners with money to spend that I'm sure third parties would start making parts.
     

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