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When technology goes wrong: Tesla’s outage case study

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You’d be right to think that Tesla’s technology surely wouldn’t go wrong, especially with the huge amounts of media coverage it gets. But in 2021, Tesla suffered a few awkward technological faults. 

You may have read that Tesla went offline which lead to customers around the world reporting issues around gaining access to their cars. It may sound comical seeing someone struggling to access their car but imagine the frustration; lateness to work, to appointments, to important life tasks. So is this something we should come to expect with many vehicles becoming keyless?

Manufacturers are becoming more and more technology-dependent with many vehicles now being managed through apps so there will be times when the technology will not work as well as we expect it to work, just like online websites, for example.

Tesla’s update

TESLA had recently launched a new update on their app which is used by most customers to access and manage their vehicle usage and needs. Through the app customers can use the phone as a key to unlock and lock the car, access service information and also buy and upgrade their packages. It was suspected that this update caused a domino-effect of  issues, which were first reported in US and Canada but soon Europe and Asia started to report the same problem. 

How did Tesla find out?

It was first reported in the US by Tesla customers after they attempted to get in the car but quite simply, found that they couldn’t. Once they managed to access their car, they found out that they couldn’t start it. The car was “offline” and not responding to any requests. Subsequently, the same issue was then reported across the world, with some very unhappy customers.

Across social media Tesla owners were flooding the pages with issues they were experiencing, and lucky for them it also meant that Tesla staff were also made aware of the issue. They soon posted an update to let all their customers know they were working on the issue and and trying to get a fix in place.

What caused the outage for Tesla?

Many things can cause an outage, but when you have thousands of customers dependant on you to find a solution, you need to work quickly. Because Tesla had recently launched their app update to improve customer experience (the irony), it was suspected that this was the root cause for the outage. After an hour or so of investigation, Tesla found that it was the upgrade that had caused this huge technical fault and you know it’s serious when Elon Musk himself takes to Twitter to give an update:

“Should be coming back online now. Looks like we may have accidentally increased verbosity of network traffic”

True to his word. the network was back online soon after but this now begs the question – should Tesla risk doing this sort of upgrade globally without checking if their network can actually handle the changes and the pressure that their servers wil be experiencing. Elon also stated that “we will take measure to ensure this doesn’t happen again” but how true this is is yet to be determined!

What we can learn from this story is that no company is “too big” to have technical issues such as network outages or app upgrades that prove detrimental. I guess we should all start with the basics on this one and make sure that we monitor our network to avoid any prolong outages. In this instant, Tesla managed the situation well and got a fix live quickly but not every company has that capacity. It might we worth them launching any updates in a smaller number to help identify any potential issues before doing a global update. 

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