It's important to be able to unlock your car, right?
Tesla Model 3 owners may have left work to a surprise on Labor Day as they were locked out of their cars thanks to the Phone Key app going down. Starting at 4 PM Pacific time on Monday, the Phone Key app crashed for what Tesla describes as a brief period of time only. While many Model 3 drivers may have been unaffected, or even unaware of the problem entirely if they rely on the normal key, those who have embraced the era of Smartphone technology may have been locked out of their vehicles completely.
Tesla claims that full functionality was restored shortly after the first outages were reported. Some users were able to simply log in again to resolve the issue, but other users claim they were locked out of their cars for up to four hours. This happened to many while they were plugged in to Supercharger stations, leaving them stranded and plugged in for longer than necessary.
To many of us, it may seem logical to always carry your Tesla key fob or card key as a backup, and Tesla recommends this in the owner's manual. But the reason they recommend it is purely in case your phone battery should die while you're out. But that's not quite how Tesla markets things, and instead, they recommend the Phone Key app as the "primary method of accessing and starting your vehicle," on their website.
It's not the first time Tesla's Phone Key app has had a malfunction of sorts. In 2018, when Tesla replaced some media control units, the relevant digital certificates weren't transferred correctly. As a result, several Tesla owners were also locked out of their cars as the app refused to link up with the vehicle and unlock the doors.
The moral of the story is simple - always keep your key fob or key card on you when you go out. But, with technological advancements pushing us towards continual use of our mobile phones, Tesla isn't the only manufacturer using mobile apps instead of traditional keys.
Polestar is doing the same, and it's not long before other manufacturers follow suit. It all sounds great, but perhaps the Labor Day lockout is the wake-up call we need that sometimes fancy tech isn't the best solution after all.
The outage wasn't linked to a network failure - as the Phone Key app works purely on a Bluetooth frequency to connect to the Model 3. This made the problem exclusive to Model 3 users, as the Model S and Model X can both make use of cellular signal instead of Bluetooth.