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Tesla owners now need to pay a monthly fee to unlock their car’s best features

We recently praised BMW’s decision to stop charging its customers an annual fee for Apple CarPlay, but in-car tech won’t remain free forever. Tesla has started monetizing connectivity by charging its customers an annual fee to use the best features it packs into its cars, and Digital Trends expects the automotive paywall will keep getting taller in the 2020s.

Data is expensive; add up how much you’ve given your cell carrier since 2010 if you don’t believe us. Tesla owners use a lot of it, because the company’s cars tend to be more connected than those made by rivals, and it’s done bearing the cost burden. If you bought your Tesla on or after July 1, 2019, the company will soon begin passing the data charges onto you.

Every Tesla regardless of how it’s configured now comes with what the company calls Standard Connectivity, according to Interesting Engineering. The bundle includes basic step-by-step navigation, music and media streaming via Bluetooth, plus over-the-air software updates when the car is connected to Wi-Fi. Buyers who want more need to step up to the Premium Connectivity package, which gives them access to the satellite view navigation system we love because it shows landmarks, live traffic data, and in-car video streaming from popular platforms like YouTube and Netflix. Some of these features were beamed to Tesla’s infotainment system wirelessly when the firm released its software version 10.0.

Tesla wants its customers to buy in, so it includes a free one-year trial with the purchase of a Model S, a Model X, and a Model 3 with what it calls its premium interior. Buyers who settle for a Model 3 with a standard or partial premium interior only get a 30-day free trial. There’s no word yet on what the Model Y will and won’t come standard with, but it’s closely related to the Model 3 so expect a very similar trim level hierarchy.

Unlocking Premium Connectivity costs $10 a month. And, while YouTube is evidently free if you’re willing to put up with endless ads, Netflix requires a monthly subscription as well. The cheapest plan starts at $9 a month. In other words, streaming your favorite car movie or television show in your Tesla will cost about $230 annually. Tesla doesn’t do cheap, so nearly all of its owners can effortless afford that, but it will be interesting to watch how they respond to being charged for data, and what it means for the automaker, its rivals, and tech companies like Apple moving forward. What’s certain is that the infotainment system will become one of the automotive industry’s most lucrative cash cows during the 2020s.

Digital Trends reached out to Tesla to learn more about its decision. We’ll update this story if we learn more.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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