The Model S also introduces the automotive over-the-air (OTA) software update concept. Today, many new cars can receive software updates remotely over the airwaves that can alter the vehicle’s performance. But in 2012, the software update was for computers, and unless you physically modify the vehicle, the car you buy is the car you use.
This OTA update makes the Model S even better by adding features or changing controls, and fixing issues that arose after the vehicle was shipped. For example, we discovered an issue with Call mode—a feature that allows the driver to remotely control the vehicle with the Tesla app without anyone in the driver’s seat, which may prevent the user from stopping the vehicle. So we had a 45 minute phone call with Elon Musk, and Tesla sent out an OTA update which fixed it right away. Then, Tesla used an OTA update to improve the braking performance of the Model 3 sedan after CR tests showed a long stopping distance.
Over time, Tesla has continued to develop the Model S as if it were a product of technology, making changes beyond the traditional automaker’s model year cadence, which a major automaker hasn’t done before, said Brett Smith, director of technology at the Center for Automotive. Research, who has studied the automotive industry for 34 years. “The auto industry often counts on revolutionary change with each new generation,” he said. “And Elon and his team have seen it as a constant evolution of the product.”
Tesla continued to refine the Model S, which eventually led CR to rethink how we rated it when we tested the P85D in 2015. Since then, the company has used over-the-air updates to increase the vehicle’s range by unlocking its hidden potential remotely. battery, issued a recall, and even added what Tesla calls “Emission Mode,” which makes a fart sound when the turn signal lights up.
Most Tesla fans are aware of the OTA update in context related to the company’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software. It all started in 2014, when Tesla’s focus began to shift from electrification to autonomy. Musk promised that Tesla owners would be able to remotely call their cars from across the country by 2019, and that they could make money leasing their cars as fully autonomous “robotaxis” by mid-2020. Finally, Tesla started selling FSD pledges of $10,000, released a beta version of the feature to the public in July 2021.
“One of the biggest turning points was entering driver automation technology, which was never part of the company’s original vision,” Niedermeyer said. Back in 2012, the Model S didn’t even have adaptive cruise control. But since Autopilot first debuted in 2014, Tesla and Musk have made a lot of promises about how cars will eventually be able to drive themselves at a rate better than humans. Few of those promises have come to fruition, and so far, we don’t think FSD is better or safer than human drivers.