Tesla Outage Shows Dependency of Modern Cars on Internet, and It’s Scary

Last week, Tesla owners reported an outage while using the brand’s app. The owners reportedly faced issues getting into their own cars or using any sort of connectivity features that the car offers. The outage shed a dim light on the symptom of increasingly connected cars and how they are at the mercy of fragile internet connections.

The network outage that rippled across Tesla’s range of services was an unusual occurrence. However, it is not exceptionally rare for internet-based connections to see brief outages from time to time.

Tesla uses mobile connections for a wide range of functions including remotely setting heating and air conditioning and making service appointments. With the internet, Tesla also unlocks the features of vehicles Autopilot driver-assistance system, which can navigate highways and city streets between waypoints set by the driver. For instance, the feature to summon a vehicle from a crowded parking lot was inaccessible because it needed the app.

Tesla customers took to social media to report multitudes of services being down, including being unable to get into their cars. Normally, they can unlock their doors and start their vehicles by pressing icons in the company’s mobile app. Tesla issues physical key cards to unlock cars as a backup.

Normally, phones pair with the cars via Bluetooth to unlock the doors, a connection the network outage would not disrupt. But some users said they had trouble logging into the app at all. This proves to a viable issue.

Tesla encourages owners to pair their cars with their phones but says they should carry backups.

“Tesla recommends that you always have a functional physical key readily available if parking in an area with limited or absent cellular service, such as an indoor parking garage,” the company says on its website.

As the auto industry evolves into newer technologies, connected cars will likely only become more prevalent in society. But if last week’s incident was any indication it was that it won’t always be smooth. One user on Twitter asked Tesla whether the app was down early Wednesday morning because he had run into car trouble.

“I have a flat tire and can’t access my app to request roadside assistance,” the user wrote.

The website Electrek was first to report on what is called a “complete network outage.”

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It didn’t take long for Elon Musk to say that the company’s mobile app was coming back online. Musk was responding to a Tesla owner’s tweet, who said that he was experiencing a “500 server error” to connect his Model 3 through the iOS app in Seoul, South Korea.

“Should be coming back online now. Looks like we may have accidentally increased verbosity of network traffic,” Musk said. About 500 Tesla users reported they faced an error at around 4:40 pm ET (3:10 AM IST on November 20), according to outage monitoring website Downdetector, which tracks outages by collating status reports from a series of sources, including user-submitted errors on its platform. There were just over 60 reports at around 9:20 pm ET (7:50 AM IST on November 20).

“Apologies, we will take measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” Musk said.

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