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Software removed from vehicle without owner knowledge

Residents in California have historically been able to trust that features included in vehicles when they purchased them would remain on the vehicles unless some work was done at a dealership or other mechanic's shop to remove them. With the introduction of vehicles relying heavily on computer software, however, that may no longer always be true. An example of this can be seen in a case involving a man who purchased a Tesla Model S that had been part of a California Lemon Law buyback program.

As explained by Driving magazine, a problem with the vehicle's infotainment screen led it to be part of the buyback program. When originally sold to its first owner, the vehicle was equipped with two software components worth an estimated $8,000: enhanced autopilot and full self driving. After the buyback to a dealer was complete, the manufacturer engaged in an update that removed these features from the vehicle. The automaker failed to indicate this had been done via a typical disclosure statement although the dealer was reportedly informed about it via an invoice from the manufacturer.

The dealership proceeded to resell the vehicle to a new owner who was under the impression that the vehicle included the EAP and FSD features. When the infotainment screen problem resurfaced, the new owner went back to the dealership only to learn about the removal of the two software components.

It remains unclear at this point whether the removal of the two features can be considered legal and legitimate. The case may warrant further discussions about how software-powered vehicles may be maintained and what disclosures are required.

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