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Tesla’s Latest Snag: If Its Servers Go Down, Owners Can Be Locked Out

For those who didn't have the card handy, their nice new Tesla became a very expensive brick, because Tesla's servers have to be up and running in order to use the car from the app--and the app is the primary way to use the car.

Over Labor Day weekend, a whole lot of Tesla owners got a nasty surprise. The smartphone app that controls the Model 3 depends on Tesla’s servers being up and running–for three hours on Monday, they weren’t. In order for users to sign in and load “their vehicle,” the app has to phone home.

The “sign in to the app” requirement is nothing new. Most new vehicles these days have apps. I have a Kia and a Subaru and they both have apps that require me to sign in. The difference is that the Model 3 has no other key besides a cheap key card to give to valets. Not everyone carries their valet card with them.

For those who didn’t have the card handy, their nice new Tesla became a very expensive brick, because Tesla’s servers have to be up and running in order to use the car from the app–and the app is the primary way to use the car.

This, essentially, makes Tesla owners into virtual indentured servants to the company that made their car. In fact, if, as some analysts believe, Tesla is bound to fail because its business model is impossible, then one day, all those Model 3’s on the road are going to have a problem. Either they all get “unlocked” somehow, find another app to authenticate owners, or they all become bricks, rotting in the sun.

I prefer not to face such issues. Maybe some after-market company can make coin producing Tesla fobs. Encrust them in jewels or plate them in platinum for cool factor, and definitely make them not dependent on Tesla’s servers being up.

This is just another reason to think hard before committing to a vehicle where the hype has so far outstripped the tech.

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