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Tesla is like an ‘iPhone on wheels.’ And consumers are locked into its ecosystem

Tesla is bringing the strategies pioneered by Apple to the auto industry. Consumers are learning that’s not always a good thing

SAN FRANCISCO — Tesla released its futuristic “Full Self-Driving” package last year to great fanfare, criticism and the usual stream of video uploads showing off cars that could seemingly drive themselves.

Then something strange happened.

The electric vehicle giant revoked access for some drivers, it said. Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter in March that some users who had received access to the company’s most advanced driver-assistance features “did not pay sufficient attention to the road.” Tesla did not say how it made the determination or who among the feature’s 2,000 beta testers — who shelled out thousands for the package that Tesla now priced at $10,000 — would lose access.

But in Silicon Valley, the decision reflected a well-understood formula: Consumers are the subject, and tech giants are in control.

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