Tesla outage forces EV app offline

Tesla's network experienced several hours of downtime today, forcing the electric car company's app offline and limiting functionality. The glitch, which Tesla is yet to comment on, came just hours after the automaker's Battery Day event during which CEO Elon Musk discussed the potential for a $25,000 car.

That, Musk said at the time, would require a number of advances, not least in battery technology. Bringing the cost of electric vehicle batteries down, along with reducing the complexity and number of parts in vehicles, would pave the way to a much cheaper EV, Musk suggested, though such a milestone is still expected to be three years or so away.

Today, though, Tesla owners have been more concerned with gaining access to their app and the various connected car features their current vehicles offer than what's on the automaker's roadmap. Drivers were left without the ability to remotely check on charging status, precondition the EV's HVAC systems, or access the Tesla website. However given Tesla's app relies on Bluetooth for proximity-based unlocking of the cars, and to start their electric motors, owners were still able to use the vehicles.

The outage is believed to have impacted not only consumer-facing systems but Tesla's internal systems too, sources tell TechCrunch.

Increasingly connected cars have long been a topic of concern among security researchers over the potential for hacking or unofficial modification. While initially focused on bringing live traffic updates to navigation systems, streaming media, or remote access to vehicle start, locks, and windows, increasingly complex systems now weave throughout modern cars, SUVs, and trucks. For manufacturers like Tesla, it's an opportunity to more readily diagnose issues, monitor vehicle performance, and deliver new features for owners.

The downside arises when that infrastructure can't necessarily be relied upon. Although Tesla has had outages before, this is one of the most widespread and significant we've seen. Owners on the official Tesla forum are reported mixed results when trying to access their apps, not only to monitor EV-related features, but also use the software to see how products like Tesla solar panels are performing.

Although frustrating for Tesla owners, it's unlikely that the progression of increasingly high-tech cars is going to slow. While EVs have arguably been on the leading-edge of connectivity features – including allowing owners to schedule charging, manage those sessions remotely, and adjust them according to the different rate tiers of their electricity providers – it's increasingly common for even entry-level vehicles regardless of powertrain to offer some sort of connectivity and app suite.