Free software trials aren't at all new, but a free trial that can add semi-autonomous functionality to your car? That's something we've never seen before. That's exactly what Tesla is offering to its customers who didn't opt for Autopilot when they purchased a Model S or Model X.
An image showing a prompt for a month-long trial of Autopilot this past weekend, before making its rounds on automotive and tech sites. A Tesla spokesperson confirmed in an email to Road & Track today that the automaker is offering a 30-day free trial of Autopilot to a majority of Model S and Model X owners.
That's because every Model X, and every Model S built since September 2014, comes equipped with all the Autopilot-specific sensors and hardware already installed—those who pay for the $2500 option get the Autopilot software enabled on their car at delivery. Tesla owners are also able to activate the software for $3000 after delivery if they didn't pay up front.
The free trial will enable autonomous steering, automatic lane changes, adaptive cruise control, and Tesla's nifty gimmick, the Summon parking feature, for 30 days. Those who wish to keep the features permanently will have to pay $3000.
While free trials for infotainment services have existed in cars before–think GM's OnStar and SiriusXM satellite radio–we haven't ever seen a manufacturer offer a free trial of software that profoundly alters how the car drives. Of course, that has a lot to do with Tesla's over-the-air software update capability, something no other automaker currently offers.
As much as Autopilot itself is a glimpse into the future, free trials and in-app purchases like this are themselves a likely preview of the future of in-car tech. As more cars become connected to the internet and over-the-air updating becomes more prevalent, the business model so common in smartphones and video games will be increasingly viable.