Tesla drivers left out in the cold after server outage, but what actually went wrong?

Tesla Model S
(Image credit: Tesla)

Over the weekend Tesla drivers across the globe were left stranded after server outages left them locked out of their cars.

The Tesla app experienced issues for several hours with users taking to Twitter to explain they were unable to connect to Tesla's servers, and therefore could not open up their Tesla Model 3 and other vehicles from the manufacturer.

The issue only affected those attempting to access their vehicles via Tesla's smartphone app; so while users could still open their cars using a physical key, anyone who didn't carry around that backup likely had a frustrating few hours.

The Tesla servers are now back online and users can once again use their smartphones as a car key. But this likely won't be the last time we see an issue affect Tesla's servers though – or any server for that manner – so we'd advise you always have your backup options handy for issues like these in the future, even if using your phone is generally a more convenient solution.

Analysis: Likely not the last outage we'll see

As an explanation for the outage, Musk tweeted “Looks like we may have accidentally increased verbosity of network traffic. Apologies, we will take measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

In computing, verbosity refers to how much information a system logs as it performs actions; turning up a system’s verbosity level means it collects more data. A high level is a great tool for troubleshooting an error as you can more easily spot which step in a process failed, however collecting more data is taxing on a system as it is required to perform more actions at one time – potentially leading to a slowdown or failure like Tesla saw as the system is put under strain.

Unfortunately, this kind of error is likely to happen again. Not specifically an issue caused by verbosity but an issue caused by the bane of computer systems everywhere: human error.

At some point, a human likely altered a line of code in Tesla’s servers that ramped up its verbosity level – either intentionally to troubleshoot a minor bug or as an unintended side effect of other work. While Tesla will be putting in measures to stop this specific slip up from happening again, unless it replaces all its staff with perfectly constructed AI human error will eventually strike once more.

As such, Tesla drivers will want to ensure they always have an alternate way to enter their vehicle. Thankfully Tesla already provides this with its cars - giving drivers an internet-free way to enter their vehicles.

Our advice is you make sure you always carry this with you, even if it's at the bottom of a bag. Because whether it's another Tesla-side issue, or just that your phone’s data package runs out – you want to be sure you can drive home.

Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.