One wonderful thing about the Model S is that we regularly get software updates. A couple of weeks ago, my car was loaded with version 6.0. The three more interesting features for me are the calendar app (in a Beta form), keyless starting and traffic based navigation. The release also includes commute advice, which is of no interest to me as I do not work, the ability to name your car, some power management options, and location based air suspension.
Many of these software features can bring up concerns about privacy. In the case of the calendar and navigation features, a third party has access to where and when you are in certain locations. I don’t have a particular personal concern about this and I trust Tesla a lot more than other businesses, but I am concerned with the level of government spying on individuals in the U.S.
One of the new features include linking to your calendar app on your phone. I took a few times to get the link to work as you have to configure your phone in several different places. I was having trouble with my iphone 5s at the time. The phone could not update an app, played a random piece of music on its own and even called one of my contacts by itself! Thankfully, the iphone was still under warranty and the flaky intermittent problem reappeared at the Apple Store! And my difficulty with the calendar linking has not reappeared with my “new” iPhone, which I hope to keep for many years as I do not want a larger phone.
The calendar app, which is a Beta feature, is a bit underwhelming as it simply shows you items on your calendar for today and tomorrow. I’m not a sales person so I don’t have a lot of different items on my schedule.
In general, I have wanted a way to be able to tell the car to “drive to this particular location” by name: a restaurant or someone’s house. Currently you have to say “navigate” to a particular address. This new calendar feature allows you to navigate to an address that you put in your calendar. I would love a much more general feature where it navigates to an address in your contact list, or a location on the web. I make very cryptic calendar entries just to be expeditious and almost never add a location to any appointments, but I am starting to include the addresses for this linking feature. I have had other people in the car comment that their vehicle has more sophisticated links to their contact list.
The remote starting / keyless driving feature is an interesting feature. Using your smartphone and the Tesla app you can start the car. Once you hit the “start” button on the app, you must enter your password, and then you are given two minutes to have your foot on the brake pedal.
Because this feature requires both a smartphone and either internet connectivity or a cell phone signal, I don’t think this feature is truly keyless. A true keyless feature would allow me to use my fingerprint on the car to unlock the car and then drive away. To read text on my smartphone, I need a pair of reading glasses, so typing in any reasonably secure password requires yet another physical object. And I use a secure password manager for all of my passwords, so finding the password for the Tesla app is another step. I hope that Tesla can use the fingerprint check on the iPhone instead of a password mechanism.
I live and frequent somewhat rural locations. My home for example has weak cellular service and I still maintain a landline. I would not feel comfortable depending upon a connection between my car and the phone for the only way to drive my car. I suspect the intention of this feature is more of a backup to your key fob if it is lost or misplaced.
Traffic Based Navigation
I have driven a couple of times where I experimented with the traffic based navigation. A drive that can often be difficult is crossing through the west side of San Francisco. On this particular day I chose to use the most common route of 19th Avenue. Although 19th Avenue had a lot less traffic than normal, the navigation wanted to route me over a street. I chose just to continue on my way.
Another day I had the reverse situation where there were two ways I could arrive at a particular restaurant that has a very tricky route from the freeway. I decided to follow the navigation instead of my normal route and hit a zone of red traffic for about a mile.
In both these cases, the traffic navigation was not perfect. I think common sense and local knowledge will always be better than most automatic solutions.
Location Based Air Suspension
The location based air suspension will remember where you previously raised the car to go over an obstacle and perform it the next time you are in the same location. I only know of one particular location that I visit a few times a year where I do raise the suspension but this could be quite useful for someone with a home or work location that requires a higher suspension. My inner jokester also thinks this could be a feature for a great practical joke on someone. Imagine someone finding their car raising every time they hit a certain street or returning to their car from a particular location. In the highest setting, the Model S looks visibly different. The driver may think their car was haunted. I wonder if you can teach the car to “unlearn” high suspension at a particular location.