I haven’t seen much discussion of this issue outside of the intellectual property community, though no doubt it’s being discussed among tractor owners. John Deere has effectively locked down its tractors, making it difficult for farmers to repair or modify the tractors they have purchased on their own. Fortunately, there’s a carveout in the onerous DMCA that keeps jailbreaking the tractors from being criminal, but the farmers are still potentially liable in a civil suit, and as in any situation with running unauthorized firmware, are in a constant arms race with the manufacturer to keep up with the latest releases, not to mention vulnerable to security issues.
John Deere today, GM tomorrow? Not impossible to imagine. As automobiles get more and more sophisticated and software controlled, car manufacturers will want to limit what customers can do to the software, for good reasons: safety and security can be compromised with changes that don’t go well. However, the temptation will also be there to protect that investment and recoup the cost by forcing customers to stay within their infrastructure for add-on parts and repairs. Tires that have to be licensed by GM to be recognized by the vehicle, for example, or the car won’t operate. Oil changes that can only be performed at GM-certified garages. When the ability of the engine to start and run is controlled by software, almost anything is possible. We’re already seeing used car dealers adding after-market devices that disable vehicles if too many payments are missed. What if car companies decide to stop supporting cars that are more than 10 years old?
Regulation is going to be way behind reality here.