There are interesting subsets within the group of people that composes Tesla Model S owners. They include celebrities, Drudge Report-reading conservatives, and, more relevant to this post, tech-savvy geeks. Now, give that last bunch an electric car with an easily-exposed Ethernet connecter and they will try to plug into it and snoop around. Don't believe us? Well, several have already admitted to giving it a try on this thread over at the Tesla Motors Club forum.
After wiring into the car's communications system, forum user "nlc" was able to find a number of ports and tap into the data flowing to the center console and navigation screens. Others soon joined in the fun and amongst the slightly esoteric bits of information the "hackers" eventually discovered was that the sub-system runs on a version of Ubuntu operating system, which is a Linux variant.
While one person did manage to use the discoveries to get Firefox to display on the center console touchscreen (sideways), it doesn't seem likely anyone will be able to do more invasive things with the Ethernet entry point like, for example, transform an early 40-kWh Model S into a 60-kWh version (you can't hack extra batteries). For those who want to customize the big 17-inch display, or at least get it to play video, it seems they'll be better off waiting until Tesla is ready to release the software development kit (SDK) it has promised for third-party app builders.
For its part, the California automaker isn't particularly thrilled to have its customers digging beneath the dash. Through its service center, it has already contacted the original Ethernet exploiter to let him know they were aware of his actions and that such activity could lead to a voiding of the warranty. Indeed, the Motor Vehicle Purchase Agreement (MVPA) which buyers sign does contain a clause which reads, in part,
It could be argued that this light-handed geekery doesn't quite measure up to the legal extent permitted, but we know if we owned a car that costs as much as $100,000, we wouldn't be risking it. Not when there are salvage-titled cars out there on which to practice the black arts. (MWAHAHAHA!)
You may not, or may not attempt to, reverse engineer, disassemble, decompile, tamper with or engage in any similar activity in respect of a Tesla Vehicle, nor may you permit any third party to do so, save only to the extent permitted by applicable law.
If you've got hacks – or third party apps, for that matter – you'd like to see performed or integrated into an electric vehicle, let us know in the Comments.