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Tesla outage leaves owners out in the cold, exposes the fragility of connected cars

The news: Some Tesla owners in the US and Canada were locked out of their cars due to a server outage late last week, per Electrek. 

Why it’s worth watching: Tesla owners who didn’t have a backup key card or fob on hand were unable to unlock or drive their vehicles using the Tesla app. Various features of the mobile app were also inoperable.

  • The outage, which happened after Tesla pushed an update to the app, seems to have been introduced by an error in the code base. Tesla CEO Elon Musk acknowledged the issue on Twitter, stating that the company may have “accidentally increased verbosity of network traffic.”
  • Tesla experienced a complete outage of its customer and internal servers in September 2020.
  • Human error is the third most common reason for network downtime, per EnableIP. In most cases, online services, apps, or websites are inaccessible. When factoring in connected cars, an outage can hinder normal operation, or in this case, even access to a vehicle.

The problem: Tesla’s app server outage is a sobering reminder of how dependent its entire infrastructure is on constant cloud connectivity and server access. 

  • The danger of scaling any tech-reliant business quickly is that critical back-end operations might become overtaxed and collapse. Tesla sold 241,300 cars in Q3—the most it’s ever sold in a quarter—and is still unable to meet user demand.
  • Recent internet and service outages have also been taking longer to resolve, indicating that massive growth is quickly becoming unmanageable and now extending to EVs and connected cars.