October 23, 2021

Tesla and other carmakers want you to pay monthly for feature subscriptions

Tesla is giving customers looking for self-driving abilities some options. Pay $10,000 in full for your car to drive itself down the street and onto the highway (with you still paying attention at the wheel) — or pay in installments for a monthly subscription to the same hands-free, automated driving features. 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk first assured Tesla drivers late last year about a forthcoming option to subscribe to the Autopilot advanced driving feature, Full Self-Driving mode (known as FSD). An FSD subscription on the EVs will open up access to drivers who haven’t paid a steep $10,000 one-time fee. 

While the subscription offer is taking longer than Musk originally anticipated (typical for Tesla), he tweeted on Monday that it’s supposed be available to Tesla owners in the next few months. Currently only a select group of beta users have access to FSD, so the subscription will be the first time it’s an option for any and all Tesla owners.

Musk hasn’t shared any details about the eventual FSD subscription, but Tesla fans anticipate it’ll start at $100 each month. 

Other carmakers also offer an enhanced, more connected driving experience for a monthly amount. They’re often free at first, but eventually drivers have to subscribe to continue receiving premium driving — including some self-driving — and entertainment features. Here’s a look at the current offerings from five major carmakers. 

Tesla connectivity services

Tesla already has a subscription model. The company switched off its free connectivity services at the beginning of 2020 and started charging $9.99 per month for “Premium Connectivity” access to traffic reports, games, music streaming, and other internet-enabled tools. A standard connectivity package is still free and includes basic maps and navigation tools.

Any new Tesla purchases with a premium interior include one year free of premium connectivity. 

General Motors’ Super Cruise

Enhanced Super Cruise lets you automatically change lanes.

Enhanced Super Cruise lets you automatically change lanes.

Image: Frenak / Cadillac

General Motors’ Autopilot competitor is a hands-free driving assistance system called Super Cruise. It’s going to be available in 22 GM vehicles by 2023 and is already in the Cadillac Escalade, CT5 and CT4 sedans, and in the Chevy Bolt EUV coming out this summer.  

It will be free to use for the first three years on most major highways, then you’ll have to pay up. GM will charge a monthly $25 connectivity fee for Super Cruise alone, but there will be other connected services plans that include Super Cruise as a feature. Currently, an unlimited data plan without Super Cruise is available for $25 per month.

Volkswagen ID.4  

You have to pay to have the full ID.4 experience.

You have to pay to have the full ID.4 experience.

Image: volkswagen

Volkswagen’s newest EV, the ID.4, is as connected as ever with real-time traffic data, WiFi hotspots and streaming music options. But the data plan that comes with the car is only free for the first month. After that you need to pay $20 each month for a Verizon mobile data plan.

For more connected services there are also Volkswagen’s Car-Net service plans with on-call emergency assistance and crash and theft alerts, online radio, enhanced voice control, and a more detailed navigation package for extra annual fees ranging from $8 to $159. The ID.4 comes with advanced driving safety features, like collision warnings and automatic lane-keeping, but doesn’t have any self-driving options, yet. 

Nissan ProPilot Assist and NissanConnect

Nissan has its own advanced driver assistance system called ProPilot Assist. So far there are no plans for a monthly fee like Tesla. Instead you pay upfront to have the driving assistance for the lifetime of the car. It comes with certain models, like the 2021 Nissan Rogue Sport SV with a “technology package” for $28,530 or in every 2021 Nissan Rogue SV, which costs $28,590. The tech package itself costs $1,850.

For NissanConnect services that provide internet-enabled features on the road, there are different levels and corresponding subscription charges: Select, Security, Convenience, and Premium. 

Select comes included in cars for five years then you can add a Security or Convenience package for $8 per month or Premium for $12.99 per month. If you want the higher level packages right away there is a free six month trial period. 

The Select package includes remote door locking, a vehicle health report, maintenance notifications, over-the-air updates, and map and traffic features. Security and Convenience build on those features and add services like Nissan Concierge (which is an on-call personal concierge service available at the touch of a button in newer cars like the 2021 Nissan Rogue), emergency calling and services, collision notification, and other alerts. 

The Premium package combines all the features from Select, Security, and Convenience. 

Polestar 2

Connected services are included for three years with the Polestar 2 EV. That covers real-time safety updates and all the bells and whistles in the infotainment system with navigation, music, audiobooks, podcasts, and more powered by Google. 

Google updates for Polestar’s built-in services will always be included, even if you don’t continue to pay for a connectivity subscription. So you’ll always be able to navigate using the baked-in Google Maps app, but if you don’t pay for connectivity you won’t have access to, say, real-time traffic data. 

Since it’s a new car that was first delivered at the end of 2020, the subscription plan pricing is still being worked out.

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