A temporary outage in Tesla’s software left Tesla vehicle owners unable to unlock their vehicles using the mobile app. Some owners took to social media to report the problem. Elon Musk replied to one owner who was experiencing an issue:
At first, the problem seemed to be limited to North America. However, it soon became clear that the problem was occurring in vehicles located in Europe and Asia too. The vehicle owner that Musk replied to was based in South Korea, for instance.
The mobile app makes it possible for owners to remotely control their Teslas, including unlocking their vehicles and summoning them in a parking lot. This feature is useful not only for people who forgot where they parked, but also people with disabilities who may have difficulty walking to or (sometimes) getting into their vehicle.
The below video shows how valuable the Summon feature can be to someone with a disability when somebody else was a jerk while parking.
Musk later tweeted that the problem with the app appeared to be solved.
Tesla vehicles can also be opened with a physical key. However, as The Car Expert editor Stuart Masson told the BBC, owners may not think to carry their key fob or keycard with them all the time because outages like this are not very common.
“Technology makes things convenient, but relies on a server working 100% of the time. It’s the same as leaving the house without my credit cards, expecting to pay for things with my smartphone. If we are reliant on one mechanism all the time, we can be caught out,” he said.
In a rarity, Musk did apologize for the outage and said that Tesla would work on making sure it didn’t happen again:
The app can bypass the router using a Bluetooth connection for the unlocking feature. This obviously relies on the owner being fairly close to the vehicle before it can be unlocked. The app will still have to route a command through Tesla’s servers for things like the Summon feature if the owner is not close enough to the vehicle to connect through Bluetooth.
Tesla did recently release an update for the app that included new features like the ability to customize quick controls on the vehicle homepage, the ability to adjust Cabin Overheat Protection, Sentry Mode Live Camera Access on some appropriately equipped vehicles, and widget improvements. However, it was unclear whether the update may have had bugs that caused the temporary outage.
Tesla previously had a significant outage of both its customer-facing system and internal systems in September 2020. This caused a wider range of issues that included the mobile app’s inability to connect to the vehicles and Tesla staff’s inability to process online orders. Owners of Tesla’s solar power products were also unable to use the mobile app to monitor their solar roofs and Powerwalls.
These incidents are, fortunately, pretty rare but do highlight the risks involved in relying on a remote server for access to services.