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BMW owners are sneaking through the gray area to get heated seats

BMW’s heated seat subscription has been drawing the ire of its customers. 2020 saw the German automaker roll out its biggest software update ever, Operating System 7. While this software update included a plethora of enhancements, it also contained something that irked its customers: a greater emphasis on microtransactions.

BMW’s ConnectedDrive store began offering features on demand, including other locked-in features such as Adaptive M suspension, simulated exhaust sound and heated seats. The backlash to the announcement prompted BMW to respond briefly, explaining that 90 percent of BMWs sold in the U.S. already have heated seats by default.

The German manufacturer defended its software service subscriptions, saying the system was designed to provide financial flexibility for those who don’t want to pay upfront for additional features. Subscriptions for heated seats range from $18 per month to $300 for three years. With heated seats already embedded in the hardware of most modern BMW models, owners have begun to take another route to activate features that are currently kept behind an effective paywall.

The ConnectedDrive system is active in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Germany and South Africa. However, the system has not yet been activated in vehicles sold within the United States. It will be interesting to see if North American citizens react to the software locking feature in the same way as BMW owners in other countries.

BMW Hackers Bring Back Heating

Many BMW owners do not like to pay extra for something that is already installed in their vehicles. So instead of going to a BMW dealership, some drivers have energized their heated seats with gray market services. These services can be unlocked for a one-time fee for blocked features.

That’s where Litchfield Motors comes in. The company is a UK-based automotive performance center that offers vehicle tune-ups and upgrades to car owners. Its owner, Iain Litchfield, told the press that locked features such as Apple CarPlay and voice recognition can be enabled for as little as £40. Litchfield said it’s even possible to unlock features that aren’t exactly legal, such as the ability to enable the car to play content on an in-car TV screen while the vehicle is in motion.

Litchfield himself specializes in cracking engine management systems that are restricted by manufacturers to unlock more power. Of course, he also knows people who can activate features like BMW’s heated seats. Litchfield says these modifications are very popular among BMW owners and have become a booming business as newer cars rely more on ECUs (electronic control units) to control and limit various vehicle functions.

Some stores focus on modifications that unlock the power of the engine and enhance the vehicle, modifications that can require a lot of cash. Some of these stores won’t bother with modifications like unlocking heated seats – modifications that were easy enough for the average home DIY car tuner to handle in times past. But lately, unlocking even the simplest of features has become a bit more difficult. The question is, how do they do it?

How does a mechanic unlock a BMW’s features?

While the process of accessing BMW’s software systems has been relatively easy in the past, Litchfield says it’s gotten more difficult. This is due to BMW’s use of encrypted Bosch ECUs in its modern fleet. yet it is still possible to jailbreak newer models of BMWs – a process no different than unlocking or cracking a password-locked smartphone. Considering the extreme measures taken to try to unlock a smartphone due to privacy measures designed to lock out any unscrupulous intruder, unlocking BMW’s software system almost seems simple.

In this case, BMW uses unique encrypted digital codes that are known as FSC codes. For a fee, experts can reportedly generate an FSC code and permanently unlock previously locked features such as heated seats. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of customization, as owners can also add things like Rolls-Royce’s custom bells and whistles.

Unfortunately, going down this route can void the car’s warranty and can be problematic when BMW introduces new software updates at any time after the vehicle’s software system has been unlocked. While professional tuners may have a solution to these problems, it may lead to more people going to the garage rather than simply paying BMW for a one-time heated seat.

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Threza Gabriel
Threza Gabrielhttps://www.techgoing.com
TechGoing is a global tech media to brings you the latest technology stories, including smartphones, electric vehicles, smart home devices, gaming, wearable gadgets, and all tech trending.
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