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Phone glitch leaves some Tesla drivers locked out

<i>David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images</i><br/>
Bloomberg via Getty Images
David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

One of the perks of owning a Tesla is using your smartphone as a key to open and drive your car. It does away with carrying a separate key fob in your pocket.

But what if your smartphone app glitches? You could be stuck not being able to use your car, which seems to be happening to Tesla owners around the world.

On Friday a number of Twitter users reported getting a “500 server error” when trying to use the Tesla app. That indicates something has gone wrong with an Internet server the app is trying to connect to.

“Still stuck in Seoul” wrote Jaehwan Cho on Twitter after earlier reporting the server error when trying to use it with his Tesla Model 3.

The website Downdetector showed a large spike in reported Tesla server problems at around 5pm on Friday. It is unknown exactly how many Tesla owners are affected by the outage, or how many are locked out of their cars. Tesla, which hasn’t engaged with professional news media for over a year, did not respond to a request for comment.

Tesla cars also come with a key card that works like the wireless key fob many vehicles have today. So in a pinch, Tesla owners can still use that to get into their cars and start them. If properly set up, the phone can also connect directly to the car without going through the Internet server. But drivers who relied solely on the app using an Internet connection were stuck.

The smartphone app also shows things like the car’s level of battery charge and whether it’s charging.

Zachary Kiefer who, had driven an hour from his home in Indiana when the app stopped working, was stuck outside of his car for hours. He had lost his key card about a month ago and also had a new phone, he said. He ended up calling AAA but, luckily, the app started working again before the tow truck arrived.
Tesla’s customers service did not seem particularly helpful, he said. “I was pretty disappointed,” he said. “They just didn’t seem to care.”

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