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Today I learned that BMW charges more for a software update “don’t blind others”

Making drivers pay for the safety of others

When you normally think of luxury car features, do you imagine sophisticated leather seats and extravagant finishes? Advanced cruise control and smart self-parking? Whatever you are imagining, I bet you “lower my headlights so I don’t blind others”, that’s not it.

But BMW has not only used its “High Beam Assistant” as an upsell for more than a decade, it is also charging drivers more to unlock the safety feature that is already built into their cars – buying it as a software update over -the-air.

Apparently, this has been going on for almost two years, but Car Magazine editor Jake Groves caught my attention for the first time this week in this viral tweet:

Let’s forget about the price for a moment, because that’s not what infuriates me. (In the grand scheme of things, £ 160 is not a huge amount for your average BMW buyer to spend.) It’s just that the rest of us depend on BMW drivers to be so good citizens that they will spend their own money to avoid showing the power of its headlights on, all because an automaker blocked a perfectly good public safety feature behind a digital paywall.

Maybe there should be a law on that? Don’t expect the US to change that anytime soon; a different technology, called adaptive headlights, is still illegal in the United States, while we wait for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to make a final decision on whether to allow them, let alone encourage their use. That decision should have taken place last year. I asked NHTSA if there was any movement, and I will let you know what I heard.

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