Former owners discovers his totaled Tesla is being driven around Ukraine still connected to his Spotify account

It used to be that having your written-off vehicle meant saying goodbye to it for good. But as one former Tesla owner recently discovered, that’s not necessarily the case with today’s connected vehicles.

Jay Yarow, an executive editor at CNBC, found himself in exactly that situation when his totaled Tesla Model X took an unexpected journey to Ukraine.

Yarow’s story began when his Model X was written off in an accident in late 2022. Months later, a notification blinked across the screen of his mobile device, announcing that his car was still alive and well. To his astonishment, his car had a newfound life in the Southern reaches of Ukraine, even discovering that the new owner was listening to Drake’s tunes via Yarow’s Spotify account.

CNBC dug a big deeper, uncovering the Model X’s journey after leaving Yarow’s wide started at a Copart auction, before apparently departing on a transatlantic voyage.

The phenomenon isn’t exclusive to Teslas however. Modern vehicles, with their infotainment systems, routinely store a treasure trove of personal data, oblivious to changes in ownership. This problem also isn’t limited to cars, and can happen with smartphones and laptops that aren’t wiped clean before they are sent off the scrap heap.

This of course poses a potential problem for Tesla owners, for which they have some suggestions to fix. One involves a remote “factory reset” mechanism, allowing former owners to sever all digital ties with their former vehicle. For the most part this solution could work, except for those scenarios where the vehicle might be disconnected due to broken electronics or dead batteries.

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