v8 USB Media Player Bug List

Update 10/25/2016:  Another owner extensively tested the USB media formats and ID3 tagging with v8.  The very detailed report is available on TMC.

The following post was written by a guest blogger, who is known as supratachophobia on on the Tesla Motors Club Forum (TMC) and lead the effort to bring back the NEMA 14-30 adapter.  Working with the direct feedback of dozens of other owners, supratachophobia compiled an extensive and prioritized list of both bugs and enhancements of the media player as it pertains to USB audio. Content compiled, thoughts composed, and article sent in by supratachophobia, edited by Owner, which is my TMC handle.

 

Introduction

First, let me say that v8 is a welcome addition to the ongoing software development process in the S (and soon to be the X). The forums all have positive comments in general on autopilot tweaks, additional features, and the overall (but definitely not all) interface improvements. While the general design of the overhauled media interface is an improvement from v7, it seems to be slanted towards those users who primarily stream their music. As such, many of the functions for USB playback have been partially broken or made more difficult to use, particularly when driving. As a result, there are questions as to whether the testing that was done with v8 had a proper sample of those owners that use USB playback as their primary choice for audio.

The USB audio playback is a very popular feature, especially for audiophiles, because it generally produces the highest quality listening experience. In fact, those that purchased the Ultra High Fidelity Sound package did so knowing that they would be playing a large collection (many thousand tracks in fact) of high-quality/lossless audio formats from USB in order that they be able enjoy the highest possible sound fidelity. Tesla works with a broad range of music formats: from the more common MP3, MP4 and AAC (without DRM), as well as formats such as FLAC, AIFF, WAV, WMA and lossless WMA. (Note – we at TMC are not clear what is officially supported by Tesla and would like some clarification).

Streaming radio uses compressed MP3, and streaming Bluetooth compresses both high bitrate MP3 and FLAC data across the connection. Under some circumstances, iPhone AAC may be able to bypass this compression. But only through USB can the audio be lossless and at its highest quality. Many audiophile owners have very large collections (1k – 10k) of tracks on their USB, and 7.1 worked much better for these large libraries. For me personally, USB audio playback was in my list of top 5 reasons for purchasing 2 of these cars.

TMC Forum Discussions

TMC has four large forum discussions currently active (those are just under Model S, there are more under Model X) with regards to how the car now handles USB audio and the lack of testing this particular functionality in the Media app received in the new v8 rollout. Please note, that many of the concerns cataloged below were features that functioned with little to no issue in v7.

As of this writing, the TMC threads have the following number of posts and views:

250+ Posts / 6,000+ Views: Comprehensive USB Bug List

100+ Posts / 3,400+ Views: Media player in 8.0 actually got worse (for local music)

200+ Posts / 7,200+ Views: 8.0 Music Player Unusable

Main v8 Thread / Over 3,500 posts and 265,000+ views so far, with USB audio problems dominating the discussion: Firmware 8.0

8.0 USB Media Player Bug List

The following is a list of specific bugs that have been detected, with as much detail as our end-user base could glean from real-world usage. We have prioritized the list as best as possible in the order presented below.

  1. The 8.0 Media player no longer includes a letter list from A-Z allowing you to search through song, album or artist lists by the first letter. Now the media player shows everything in one gigantic list. Trying to scroll through a list of thousands of items is very dangerous when driving, and does not actually work in practice, see issue 2.
  2. When scrolling a USB list view with several pages of items, the scrolling feature does not work as expected. Any attempt at repeated scrolling gestures are interpreted as a click into a folder. When you try to back out of that, or any folder, the interface takes you to the top of the previous list, instead of the point in the list where you entered.
  3. Album tracks are being played alphabetically instead of by track number. This playback is unpleasant when listening to an album, but a horrible problem when listening to audiobooks.
  4. “Search Anything” does not search anything, it searches everything except USB media. Please allow search (both via text entry and voice) to include USB media and a priority option to USB playback (if results are found) at the top of the results list. (Rumored to have been resolved in 8.21 – thank you)
  5. When media is paused, the system should note the point in the recording. When resuming play, the system should start from that point. Today, when the driver leaves/returns to the car or resumes playback, the result is unpredictable. Sometimes the track will reset to the beginning, which is especially annoying when listening to an audiobook or podcast. Sometimes when the player is on pause, and the driver re-enters the car, the media turns itself on again.
  6. The shuffle feature “on” is not predictable or persistent and turns off at random times. (Changing between USB sources, and during entry/exit of the vehicle.)
  7. The shuffle feature itself does not properly randomize. The same sets of songs are repeated in the same order when shuffle is engaged/re-engaged.
  8. When looking at a list of items under an artist name or browsing a folder, the list view is a simple alphabetical display of all items intermixed, such as when using a UNIX ‘ls’ command. In v7, the system always had albums, which are folders, at the top of the list followed by any single tracks.
  9. The car needs to maintain Track Title, Disc, Album Artist, and Album Title in all the lists, presentations, and sorts to avoid difficulties with “Greatest Hits”, multi-disc audiobooks, and boxed multi-disc sets.
  10. Some scans take an abnormal amount of time. The forums have no clear conclusion what causes this problem: read speed of USB media, number of tracks, or size of data. The current workaround is to turn off power-saving mode in the car. Some owners report the USB sticks with 6,000 or more tracks now take two hours to get to 80% complete.
  11. Sometimes the Bass, Mid, and Treble settings are not saved overnight. Again, TMC is unsure if the problem is triggered by changing USB audio sources. We were wondering if the intended feature was to allow different equalizer settings for audio types on different USB sources. For example, audiobooks would have a different profile for music. If so, we would welcome this feature, but would like it documented in the release notes.
  12. Spaces in the USB volume name are represented by the ASCII value “\x20” and not a blank space. For example “Fix These Bugs Please” is written as “Fix\x20These\x20\Bugs\x20Please”.
  13. Album Art is still broken for some users. In this area, we would really like some clear documentation of what is supported. Some owners rarely see their album art for unknown reasons. For an album with multiple artists, the media player should display the album art if the song is not populated.

Enhancement Requests

  1. The ability to find new matching music (and add it as the next track in the queue) based upon elements from the current song being played. For example if Michael Jackson’s Thriller is playing the track Billie Jean, you could tap on the ‘artist’. The media player would then find a different track, by Michael Jackson, and make it the next track to play. Now if you pressed the text of the ‘album’ name, Thriller, then the next song to be queued would be from that album. And finally, if something like the song Smooth Criminal was playing, tapping the song title would go and find that song by another artist, for example, the version done by Alien Ant Farm.
  2. The ability to play an entire hierarchical folder. The first entry inside every folder should be a button option to play everything in that folder including loose items and all items in folders within folders. This feature would be very useful for folders that include sub-genres.
  3. The ability to bookmark a set of exact places in an audio track for resuming later. Bookmarking is a critical feature for both podcasts and audiobooks played through USB. Currently it is very challenging to try to find the correct space in an hour long or more podcast to resume listening. This feature would be able to store at minimum of 3-5 bookmarks and be found next to the “Favorites” and “Recent” tabs. The selection of a bookmark would take you not only back to the timestamp, but also to the “album” so that the book could resume at the next track. The shuffle status, on or off, should be restored to what it was as well, when the bookmark was made.
  4. When displaying a set of recently played items, this list should remember the playlist context of that item. For example, playing song 5 from album X, selecting song 5 from the recent list should remember that the person was listening to album X in its entirety. This mechanism should also work when song 5 was part of a playlist entitled “Foggy Morning Drive”, and pick up playing the rest of the music on the playlist “Foggy Morning Drive”.
  5. Some owners would like support for the m3u format, which has always been the most popular playlist format. M3u is currently recognized by every major media player on the market, including almost every other vehicle that does MP3 playback.
  6. The support of gapless playback for lossless audio formats (AAC and FLAC).

8.0 USB Improvements

  1. We generally really like the simplistic aspects of the media interface and see it as an improvement over 7.1.
  2. The album artwork from the ID3 tag is displayed most of the time. But we are curious what the size limitation is here as many owners are having mixed results.
  3. The name of the USB volumes are now recognized and displayed.

Video

I also made a video of my personal likes from the use of an Empeg for 12 years. I found a lot of it’s functions to be invaluable when listening to MP3 audio in the car.

Conclusions

The 8.0 software seems to be a nicer interface for playing music. The dual column scrolling and the Now Playing screen utilize the screen real-estate much better and more completely. But there are several opportunities to improve in the areas where USB playback challenges were left untouched or newly introduced. We hope these will be quickly addressed by Tesla seeing that with the ever-growing ownership base, more and more will come to use USB playback as their primary audio source as well.

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Road Trip Testing the New Trip Planner

Last week I went from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area to Ashland, Oregon and back in my Tesla with software version 6.2.4.153.  I do this trip twice a year as I really enjoy the plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival — where 2/3 are not Shakespeare plays — along with the wonderful food and ambiance in the town itself.

On the way up, I drove a circuitous route through the Petaluma supercharger and experimented with the new trip planning feature, and on the way back I explicitly tested the feature.  The trip planner technically is still in Beta and was added to help us plan our trips and reduce range anxiety.  Unfortunately, the software still has quite a few problems that inadvertently caused me some minor range anxiety.

Tesla divides the software into three different features:  trip planner, range assurance, and navigation.  The trip planner helps you determine how much time to charge at each supercharger.  The range assurance software lets you know that you potentially may be running out of energy while driving.  The navigation software has been part of the software since the Model S began shipping.  To the end user, all three of these pieces of software have high degrees of interaction.  This review of the trip planner software inevitably discusses all the software in totality.

Informal Testing

On the way to Oregon, I stopped in at the newer Petaluma supercharger and decided to drive up through Calistoga and avoid some of the very boring Interstate 5 (I-5) driving.  Prior to the trip, I planned the journey in some detail using evtripplanner.com.  The total miles between the Petaluma supercharger and the Corning supercharger on I-5 is 165 miles, which should use up 52.6kWh on my 85 with 21” wheels in typical nice California weather.

In Petaluma when I selected the Corning supercharger, the navigation system really wanted me to go to the Vacaville supercharger first.  I could not overwrite the path as the software does not allow any waypoints on your drive.  Waypoints are intermediate points that you can select to choose between alternative routes.  The Tesla navigation system has a very strong preference for freeways.  By the time I got to Calistoga, the software finally gave up and routed me directly to the Corning supercharger showing I would have a 28% battery upon arrival.

Software Weakness #1  – Navigation System really needs waypoints to allow the user to select alternative routes.

I went for a very nice hike in Robert Lewis Stevenson State Park which is at the summit of a small mountain range.  When I got back, the software was completely confused and reported that it would only have 5% of battery when I got to Corning and that I needed to drive slowly.

Tesla Range Assurance Warning

Tesla Range Assurance Warning

Since I was paying close attention to this new software and have driven cross country in the Tesla, I was not alarmed and realized my problem was likely that the car could not connect to the internet. After driving downhill about 10 miles, the 3G connection finally kicked in and the number shot back up to about 28% battery remaining.

Software Weakness #2  – The trip planner needs to store more information so that in period without internet access, the software does not report incorrect data.

The next day I headed towards Ashland after charging that morning at the Mt. Shasta supercharger.  I was only going to drive to Ashland and stay there and return to the same supercharger.  Because I have done this route a few times in the Tesla, I did not pre-plan my trip to and from the Shasta supercharger beforehand.  I charged the car at Mt. Shasta to what I suspected was “full enough” and not a range charge; I unfortunately did not note the exact amount of charge.

The driving distance between Mt. Shasta and Ashland is only 75 miles and there are a few slower chargers in town.  But I would have dearly loved to have a round trip feature on the trip planner, so I would have known how much I needed to charge in Mt. Shasta.  The elevation change is 1,653 feet so using the number of miles is not sufficient to estimate charging needs.  I did not remember how much I had charged on previous trips.

Software Weakness #3  – The Trip Planner needs a roundtrip feature.  

Ashland

Blink Charger With Almost Unreadable Screen

Blink Charger With Almost Unreadable Screen

Ashland has a few chargers in town, so I decided to stop and try to top off the Tesla at one of  them.  Even if the Tesla software is far from perfect, I do not particularly enjoy dealing with external charging stations.  The stations in Ashland are no exception.  I have charged there once before.  But Ashland is very strict with their parking rules;  I have gotten a ticket in the past for staying about 15 minutes past my four hour allowed time in the same parking lot.

I was a little nervous with the ubiquitous signs stating “Head In Parking Only” when the cord would not reach while parking head in.  The second problem was that I simply could not read the cracked and dirty screen in the direct sunlight.   The third problem was that when I pulled out my Blink charging card, I got the error “Access Denied”.  I incorrectly figured I had enough juice and gave up.

Pavement Where Tesla Suspension Needs to be Raised

Pavement Where Tesla Suspension Needs to be Raised

The hotel I like to stay in Ashland has a terrible entrance to their parking lot.  Under the small outbuilding is a eight car parking garage with a short but steep entrance.  On the pavement are scratch marks from the many cars that scrape the pavement.

I have earlier raised the car in this exact same location, but I figured the car would automatically raise itself.  Unfortunately, the Tesla seemed to have a bad memory and I scraped the car a tiny bit.  I manually raised the suspension, and the screen said “Auto-raising location” after the fact.  As a test, I drove away, lowered the suspension, and re-entered the parking lot but the car did not want to raise itself automatically.

Software Weakness #4  – The auto-raising location detection  or activation does not seem to always take affect where needed.

Tesla Auto Raising Feature Report on the Screen But Not in Reality

Tesla Auto Raising Feature Report on the Screen But Not in Reality

The morning when I was leaving Ashland, I selected the Mt. Shasta supercharger on the map, I realized I did not have enough energy to get to Mt. Shasta and the car wanted to go to the next supercharger to the North.  I decided to top off at the Blink charger.  I backed in and called Blink, who said that particular card was not activated.  I must have used the iphone app the other time I used their system.  The nice feature about superchargers is that they are significantly less complicated.  There are several charging networks with various maps, cards, smartphone apps, cable lengths, charging rates and connector types.  With infrequent use of general charging, these relatively easy differences can feel complicated.  The superchargers are always free and always have the same cable.

The Real “Test”

List of Upcoming Superchargers and Time Needed at Each Stop

List of Upcoming Superchargers and Time Needed at Each Stop

After an unexpected lovely morning charging in Ashland enjoying a late breakfast, I decided to embark on the real test of the Tesla trip planner.  I was going to drive straight home and follow the instructions given by the Trip Planner.  I was not going to take any significant detours other than a quick stop or two right off the freeway where needed.  I decided to do a formal “test” of this new feature.

I was going to visit as many superchargers as needed and charge the exact amount of time listed.

For this journey, the total amount of supercharging would be exactly an hour at three different superchargers:  Mt. Shasta (15 minutes), Corning (25 minutes) and Vacaville (20 minutes).

While driving I watched to see if the numbers changed.  I kept close to the speed limit perhaps exceeding it by up to 5mph.  The test occurred on a Sunday afternoon where I-5 is actually reasonably busy and has a comfortable 70mph speed limit for most of the journey.  For late April the weather was a bit warm in the high 80s but not exceptionally hot for the central valley of California.

Supercharger Mt. Shasta

When I arrived at the Mt. Shasta supercharger I was the only Tesla there.

Charging Progress Screen

Charging Progress Screen

The software does a nice job reporting progress while charging.  It lists how many more minutes you need to charge and also the amount of energy you will have left at the next charging station.  The estimates also include a negative charge, which is a nice feature to monitor while waiting.

I quickly filled up as needed in the 15 minutes of time listed.  I was comfortable with how many miles I had in the battery.  When I am at home, I like to see the amount of energy in the battery listed as a percentage, but when traveling I like to see the distance in rated miles (not ideal), so I can quickly compare it to the amount I would need to travel.

After the 15 minutes were up, the car let me know it was ready to go both on the car’s screen and the Tesla Iphone app.

Driving to Corning

On the way to Corning, I noticed that the software seems to think in 5 minute intervals.  From time to time it seemed to estimate that it might take 20 minutes to charge at one of the superchargers, than it changed its mind to 25 minutes.  I’m not sure why Tesla decided to not make the number of minutes more granular as they are still estimates.

Corning Supercharger

At Corning there was another Tesla there, but I pulled into a charger that was not paired with theirs.  I went for a stroll, but I was not hungry enough to grab a bite to eat and was going to find something in Vacaville.

My charge took the 25 minutes as required, and the car told me “You have enough energy to continue on your trip”. I recorded on the Tesla app a charge of 140 miles.  Google maps indicates the driving distance is 113 miles.  EV trip planner also says there is a drop of 174 feet.  Although the buffer was not large, I was comfortable enough driving on.

Williams

A little after 5pm, the hunger pangs hit in and I decided to find some vegetarian fast food.  Just off the exit in Willows, CA is a Burger King, which sells a vegetarian burger.  After picking one up, the range assurance software became very unhappy.  I had not even added a mile to my trip, but it wanted me to go back to Corning.  I refused and checked my battery level and was comfortable I could get to Vacaville.  I continued on driving just under the speed limit at 68 or 69 mph and kept my kwH / mile at a reasonable level.  I was comfortable with the amount of energy in my battery.

I turned off the navigation as it continued to want me to make a U-turn.  I briefly became a bit anxious; I was finding the navigation system was giving me more range anxiety than I have had in the past; I did not actually have “range anxiety” but I was slightly disappointed that I unexpectedly need to pay more attention to my energy usage than expected.  In my 40,000 miles of driving the Tesla I have never experienced any true range anxiety.  I have experienced a few periods of time where I needed to drive conservatively.   These few cases were planned in that I knew I was pushing the limits of charge in my battery before I began driving.

I turned the software on again a few times to see what it decided to do.  Somewhere in the middle of the two supercharging stations, it told me to go find another place to charge!

Unexpected Mid Journey Warning too Far Away From  Any Chargers

Unexpected Mid Journey Warning too Far Away From Any Chargers

For entertainment purposes, I hit the show chargers option.  It wanted me to drive over the mountains and go to some wineries on the way to Calistoga. I was definitely not going to do that option, and turned off navigation and continued my conservative driving with the cruise control on.  When I asked the Tesla where to go at one point it wanted me to drive to the Roseville supercharger first and arrive there with zero charge!  The distance between the Corning supercharger and the Vacaville supercharger is 113 miles, whereas the distance between the Corning supercharger and the Roseville supercharger is 128 miles.

Navigator Re-routed Me to Roseville

Navigator Re-routed Me to Roseville

Software Weakness #5 – The software needs to remember in the cache that it had earlier told me I had enough energy to get to the next supercharger.  I was driving within the speed limits.  Just because I used up perhaps a wee bit more energy and would arrive with 20 miles left instead of 25, the software should not get completely confused.

Ironically just across the street from the Burger King is a Motel 6 with a Sun Country charger.  Also fifteen miles before Vacaville is a public charger in Winters, CA.  These two options along with a few other choices along I-5 and in Woodland would have been much better choices in a real charging emergency.  Charging stations are not ubiquitous along I-5 but do exist.

Software Weakness #6 – When suggesting emergency charging, the software should list all charging stations.  Currently it appears to list only Tesla HPWC and superchargers but not the more ubiquitous chargers by other companies. Even better yet, it should tell you to significantly slow down.  I could have easily driven 60mph.

As I was approaching Vacaville, I began to speed up a bit.  The software finally settled down and routed me to Vacaville with some remaining charge.

Vacaville Supercharger

The Vacaville supercharger was quite busy.  I pulled into a non-paired stall with 17 miles left.  Another person arrived just before me but selected a paired stall.  I have noticed that many Tesla owners simply drive up to any supercharger stall without even checking the stall designation.  Perhaps they are uninformed that their charge can be greatly reduced if they pick a paired stall with another recent arrival.

Backing up is a bit tricky in some of the stalls in Vacaville.  There room in front of the middle stalls is hampered by perpendicular parking in front.  By the time I backed in, the out of state drivers had already walked away from their charging stall.

Continuing my test, I charged until the the time the car told me I had enough energy to complete my journey home, which was exactly 20 minutes.  At this point every charger was full.  As I was simply going home and my test theoretically complete, I pulled out to give my stall to the newcomer.  But taking a second look while parked in front of the 8 Teslas charging, I saw the following statistics:

  1. Driving distance to home – 104 miles
  2. Rated range charge – 111 miles
  3. Expected charge upon arrival 5%

Software Weakness #7 – The warning indicator “You have enough energy to continue on this trip” is not carefully programmed.  The software told me I had enough energy to continue on the trip with a very small margin below 25 miles.  I am guessing that the timer stuck to the initial 20 minutes instead of charging time instead of accurately measuring the charge level upon completion. 

Instead of continuing, I saw another car had left and backed into and charged some more.  The charge rate was painfully slow as I was in a paired stall with I suspect someone pulling a lot of energy.  I probably left about 10 minutes later knowing I had to drive conservatively to make it home.  The Bay Area has a lot of gentle hills and I would need to use a little more energy for the last leg of my trip.

Tire Pressure Warning

About 30 miles away from home, I got the Tire Pressure Warning (TPWS) light come on.  I have not received this warning in over a year.  In the past I got a lot of false warnings and some very genuine warnings before a potential blow out.  I pulled over and looked at the tires and they did not look visibly low.  When I got back in the car the warning went away, only to reappear and disappear again 15 miles later after looking at the tires again.

The next day I took the car to my local garage and one tire was lower by about 10 psi and had a nail in it.   The TPWS worked well and saved my tire.  I’m not sure why the behavior flickered on and off.  The perpendicular angle of the nail resulted in a slow leak and the tire is now repaired.

Conclusions

Tesla is headed in the right direction by helping drivers plan their energy usage.  They correctly labeled this software as a Beta version.  Most of the problems I found were more software weaknesses / enhancements than explicit bugs.  Unfortunately in the current condition the software will do little to reduce range anxiety and in some cases may significantly increase range anxiety.

In the current software, Tesla is trying to appease two opposing needs at the same time:  range anxiety and optimal charging time.  Unfortunately, these two needs are actually inversely correlated.  If I want to have no range anxiety, I would fill up the battery as much as possible before continuing or at least add more of a cushion, but that would take up more time at the superchargers.  If I want to optimize my charging time, I need to watch the driving speed and monitor the energy usage.  If I always keep the battery as low as possible, I could easily have some range anxiety or a trip where I need to monitor energy usage.

Software Weakness #8 – The software should have an option for selecting between truly optimal supercharging times or range anxiety cushions.  Clearly the software is aiming that you arrive at the next supercharger with 25 miles left.  I find this a reasonable cushion for point to point conservative driving.  Perhaps the software should have an option:  range or time.  The time would be in the current configuration.  I doubt anyone would want to plan with less than a 25 mile buffer.  The range option would perhaps increase this buffer by 25 miles to 50 miles.

The current software is useful for existing Model S owners, but in its current state it will not address the concerns of the non-tech savvy person who may have range anxiety.   I have forwarded this review to Tesla management, and I am confident that the software will improve over time.

For Model S drivers when using this software, I would point out the following five facts before embarking on a road trip:

  1. The amount of time to charge at each supercharger is relatively aggressive leaving you only 25 miles extra driving distance at the speed limit.
  2. You may get some scary warnings if you veer off the software’s designated path.
  3. The Tesla software does not include any non-Tesla chargers – either commercial stations or free if you are close to running out of juice.  Please consult other websites or smartphone apps if you are running out of energy.
  4. The software may notify that your battery is full enough to leave the supercharger but may actually need more time.  Double check the charge before unplugging.
  5. The software may give you false warnings when out of cell signal range.

Range Anxiety

Elon Musk had a press conference today to discuss upcoming firmware improvements in version 6.2 and beyond.

Firmware 6.2:

  1. New Range Assurance Application that is always running in the background.  The car is always monitoring where it is in relationships to the superchargers and warns you if you may run out of electricity.  This monitoring takes into account current weather conditions and terrain.  You have to “opt-out” twice before running out of range.
  2. Built in trip planner that considers best route for your trip along with best charging opportunities.  The trip planner also figures out how long you need to charge at the location and lets you know on your smartphone that it is time to go.
  3. The supercharger status is also on a network.  The car is constantly communicating with this network.
  4. Automatic safety braking
  5. Side to side collision and blind spot warning
  6. Improvements in radio reception
  7. Valet mode similar to the Roadster
  8. Nuanced accelerator and brake improvements

Firmware 7

  1. New user interface
  2. Auto steering features

Other updates:

Model X is coming out this summer, and the first real auto-drive features will be available in six months.  Over the next twelve months all of Europe and the US (except for Northern Alaska) will be covered with superchargers. In 2015, Tesla will be deploying more superchargers in the world than the sum of all superchargers to date.

These new features are quite nice, and will be very helpful for those less technologically savvy.  I have to admit I have never had any range anxiety while traveling.  I am looking forward to having the whole continental US completely covered with superchargers.  I hope that means I can take a trip through the lonely deserts of southern Nevada and Arizona without depending upon charging at a campground.  For a true dream roadtrip, I would like a battery pack and a comfortable car that is still fun to drive that had a useful real world range of about 400 miles requiring just one charge per day.

Tesla Center Console

Tired of the Junk Drawer Look on my non -Yacht Floor

Tired of the Junk Drawer Look on my non -Yacht Floor

Tesla has followed a “clean aesthetic” for the car.  Unfortunately this clean aesthetic for me went too far and there is no center console.  I’ve been waiting for two years to get one and am more than a bit tired of my center junk floor.

Many years I go I realized that there are three places to keep simple items that you may need:  your home, your office and your car.  If you have those things there, you generally don’t need to carry them with you.  The Tesla glove compartment is quite small and difficult to reach from the driver’s seat.  So on the floor I typically have the following items:

  1. Reading glasses and case
  2. Sunglasses and case
  3. A pen
  4. Charger for my iphone
  5. Napkins
  6. Hand sanitizer (only because I hike in remote places)

At some point last year, the Tesla center console was finally available in my interior finish, Piano Black.  I decided to order one.  Earlier this year I got a phone call saying my center console was in and I can have it installed.  I decided to do that at the same time as my annual service appointment.

When the driver arrived with the loaner, I had a discussion with him about the center console.  He seemed very unimpressed with the center console and said a good 50% of the customers preferred not having it.  He suggested I find a friend who had a center console.  I know a few folks who drive Teslas, but no friends that I see on any regular basis nor any that have a center console.  I also knew that other owners and reviewers had complained that the finish of the console was not the best but I knew that wasn’t my largest concern.

It turns out that the driver and I have the same iphone case made by Speck.  He said that I may not be able to charge the phone in the dock with the case on!  This feature is key for me.  I love my Speck case because within the case you can put two credit cards, a $20 bill and an ID.  I haven’t carried a wallet in about a year.  Eventually I could envision an even smaller case once Apple Pay and other pay by phone mechanisms are more widely accepted.  But if I can’t use the phone charging dock the center console is a dud.

Iphone Case by Speck

Iphone Case by Speck

I am a huge water drinker, so the design of the cup holders is important but I have identified a set of stainless steel water bottles that I using in the existing cup holders. I am interested in larger cup holders for more flexibility with carrying larger water bottles.

Tesla service handled this situation well.  The driver gave me honest feedback and Tesla has already processed my refund for the center console. The service manager noted

“I’ve continually asked the accessory team to provide one for show, for your exact reasons. So I will be sure to include your feedback when I ask them to refund your order.”

I have looked around the other third party consoles and none of them appear to offer exactly what I want, and I really want to see them in person!  So for now I’m looking for a simple black box with a lid to keep on the floor.  But after looking online for a while, even finding a reasonable looking black box with the right dimensions is not that simple.

Version 6.0

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.

Calendar Application

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.

Keyless Driving

Driving via Your Phone Gives You Two Minutes

Driving via Your Phone Gives You Two Minutes

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.

The Detour Not Worth Taking

The Detour Not Worth Taking

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.

5Yrs 42KMiles 200Posts

This blog post is a large milestone for me.  I have driven Tesla’s as my main vehicle for five years with only occasional usage of a 4WD SUV.   I have driven a total of over 42,000 miles in both cars, and surprisingly written 200 blog posts covering both cars.

My Beginnings with Tesla

I have been an environmentalist all my life and had already owned one hybrid vehicle.  When the GM EV1 came out in 1997, I took note but found the short range not very practical for me. I had been watching the market since then and everything available even in 2006 was basically a golf cart.

Seven and half years ago a friend, who was driving one of the first Priuses, wanted to go to an electric car show in the parking lot of Palo Alto High School.  At the event we talked to several different car “manufacturers”.  The only one that impressed me was Tesla.  They had a mockup / prototype of the Roadster that was pretty rough.  After that initial conversation, I shortly put my $75,000 down for my Roadster.  I strongly felt I needed to have action behind my environmental words.

Why I Blog

I started my blog a few days after I got my Roadster.  I knew I was one of the few people driving Roadsters who had the time or interest to blog about the experience.  I wanted to help encourage other people to drive electric cars.  I have a technology background but I also had roles with a lot of communication responsibilities.  I think I have succeeded in a small way helping others buy electric vehicles.  I wanted this blog to express what it is like to own and drive a high end electric vehicle.  I avoid talking about the stock price and many “news events” as they are heavily covered by the mainstream media and often I have nothing in particular to add to the conversation.

During the Roadster years, I typically got 5 to 10 views per day.  Honestly, there was not that much to write about the car because the driving experience and controls were very simple.

Once I began blogging about the Model S the number jumped by a factor of 10, and I typically get 50 to 100 views per day with some days being substantially higher.  Lifetime number of views is almost 50,000.

Most people find me through google searches a combination of words such as tesla owner reviews model S etc…  and also through a few links on forums and other sites.  I suspect a lot of these people are new car buyers.  Most visitors are from the US but Norway and Canada are also active.  I currently have 45 followers.

Popular Posts

I have a number of posts that are consistently popular over time as they contain some detailed information for new buyers.

P85+ Loaner Report – which compares driving a S85 vs a P85+ for several days

Performance and Plus – which breaks down the S85 vs P85 and contrasts driving the Roadster

19” vs. 21” Wheels – which includes an estimated breakdown of long term costs

Living With 110V – My successful first month with the Model S using just 110 before I got my adaptor to my Roadster High Power Connector.

There have also been a number of posts that were analyzed data or were news oriented that were also popular

Range Test – I surveyed a number of other Model S owners to see if driving style had any influence on the car’s rated range.  The results were a clear conclusion that there was no relationship.

Valet Mode — applies to the Roadster but received a lot of attention at one point

Supercharger Time Test  — trying to achieve 170 miles in 30 minutes during five different  systematic tests.

Seven Years of Solar  — detailed analysis of my solar usage on the house

Vampire Drain  — detailed analysis of the drain when my car was left idle for long periods

Driving

So many owners have described how wonderful it is to drive a Tesla.  I avoid emphasizing this part of the experience on my blog as it is very redundant.  But in summary, I can’t imagine ever wanting to use an ICE vehicle as a regular car.  My top favorite reasons for loving my Tesla is:

  1.  I love the acceleration of the Teslas.  In any situation knowing I can safely accelerate past another car when necessary.  I still enjoy this part of the car although from time to time I can scare my passengers.
  2. The drive is smooth, quiet, comfortable.
  3. Never having to go to a gas station.  The convenience of filling up at home is really nice.
  4. The overall electronics experience is very nice in the Model S.
  5. I do feel I am doing my part for the environment as I am “driving on sunshine” as except for the occasional outside charging, all the electricity is generated from the solar panels on my home.

If I have to be nit picky about the Model S I would like these things improved:

  1. Rear view visibility.  I am not that thrilled with using the camera particularly on rainy days.
  2. The car is really just a bit too wide for me.  I would prefer it a little narrower in order to get into a lot more tight parking stations as the Bay Area is getting more and more crowded.
  3. I have a fair amount of curb rash on my beautiful 21” wheels.  But most of these rashes are from the first six months of driving (or parking).
  4. At times I wished the Iphone and the Model S talked to each other better.  If I have someone’s address on the Iphone I would like to be able to navigate directly there.
  5. The homelink at times can be slightly annoying.  It seems to recognize the garage door sensors quite far away but often cannot open them till quite close.  And the drop down menu often turns off the rearview camera’s picture.

Service

The only real problem I had with the Roadster was horrible radio reception but that got fixed over time.  With the Model S I had several problems with the door handles but they also have been resolved.

I have found all the folks at Tesla to be extremely responsive and friendly.  I have enjoyed all of my interactions with Tesla personnel.  I would give them my highest possible marks for customer service.

Who am I

I have kept my identity hidden from the blog.  A large reason is that I really wanted to have a straight forward historical blog about living with a high end electric vehicle, not about its owner.  I also wanted to not receive any preferential treatment from anyone at Tesla.  Only within the last six months I have disclosed my identity to Tesla in order to get some important questions answered about supercharging.

I also have never owned any Tesla stock.  There was a brief opportunity when Elon permitted accredited investors with Roadster deposits to invest in Tesla.  At that time I was reeling from an unenjoyable experience as an angel investor.  Although I have invested in pre-public technology companies several times, I was not completely comfortable with my knowledge of the car industry.  Once Tesla went public, I just never made the move perhaps fretting over timing.  Regardless whether or not I ever invest in Tesla, the amount will not be a significant one for me, and this blog will continue to be objective.

The Future

I still have a number of ideas for future blog posts and maintain a running list.  My posts over the years have in general have an increased level of analysis and word count.  I am probably overdue for a cosmetic overhaul.  I would love to hear any feedback on the blog in general both good and bad and what anyone would like me to write about in the future.

Map Improvements

I am so much happier with navigation in the 5.8 software than the 4.5 software.  Already with the short time I have had it, the live navigation traffic map already saved me from a horrible backup with an accident on a freeway during unusual holiday traffic.

I was not that impressed with the maps in 4.5.  They had two significant issues.  One, the maps seemed to be always a bit out of date.  The traffic maps I could get on my iphone seemed significantly more accurate.  Before heading off on a medium length excursion across the bay, I would frequently check my iphone for the best way to cross the bay.

With 5.8, the updates now appear much more real time.  Recently, I regrettedly drove straight into a red zone defying what the maps were telling me because I had lost trust in the information.  In the end, I found that a lane had been closed for road repair, and I arrived 15 minutes late to my destination.

On the way home, I noticed the traffic map ahead with a serious upcoming red zone on the freeway in the middle of the day.  Now that I learned the hard way that the data was more timely than before, I zoomed off the freeway and watched a fire engine and many red lights ahead on the freeway.  I am not sure when this more accurate updating occurred as my firmware jumped from 4.5 to 5.8.

I also really like that when you do have a route in the map, you can still view the traffic map in 5.8.

Traffic and Embedded Route Information

Traffic and Embedded Route Information

I do have one remaining issue with navigation.  I seem to have a hard time zooming in and out of the map and maintaining an accurate view.  I don’t actually use the navigation very often as I have a great sense of direction.  So I find myself having to move around the maps a lot as I am driving.  And sometimes, the zoom in and out feature does not work particularly smoothly.  Since this frustration occurs when driving, I am not able to really record and document the exact concern.

With the updated navigation features, I don’t want to go back to driving a car without a large screen with updated traffic information.  While driving I would never have been able to avoid that accident  in a regular car even with a smartphone.