When Tesla’s Model S rolled out in 2012, it was already years ahead of other manufacturers with its uniquely large touchscreen featuring integrated system controls. In 2015 the electric car manufacturer will again cause a stir with a more versatile, user friendly operating system following some strategic alliances and new hires.
The current Model S infotainment system allows the user to monitor vehicle energy use and control the common dash functions like climate, lights and windows. The system also includes a full web browser, navigation, media and voice controlled phone. Unlike other manufacturers’ systems, the Tesla operating system is updated remotely with no need for the driver to visit a dealership. Instead new features and safety updates are automatically sent to the system, and drivers are notified via an on screen message.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk kept his promise from last year to further improve the user experience with the operating system by forming relationships with some very important companies. Tesla Motors partnered with AT&T for the North American region to use their data network for carrying vehicle navigation, diagnostics, weather, traffic reports, web browsing and more. The partnership came at the perfect time, as AT&T launched their new automotive development platform, AT&T Drive, and a connected car studio where new ideas are tested and showcased.
Over the past year, Musk has been seen visiting Apple headquarters, spurring rumours of a potential buyout. Rest assured that these rumours are completely false, and Tesla has only been working with Apple to further integrate the mobile giant’s phones with its vehicles. Tesla did, however, lure a few key Apple employees into a new job, including Mac Hardware Vice President Doug Field who is working in Vehicle Design. A few more employees with Apple knowledge will certainly help with Tesla’s future of app integration.
The newest update to the Tesla Model S’s operating system (version 6.0) features a calendar system, new power management options, navigation improvements and the ability to start the car without keys for iPhone users. A similar Android update will follow shortly after. Android users have already been given Tesla Command, an app for wrist devices through which users can control the locks, horns, sunroof and other features from their wrist. With the launch of the new Apple Watch, a similar app is expected to emerge any day for those users. While Tesla vehicles can already communicate with Apple, Android and Windows products, it looks as though only Apple and Android are working to integrate their systems seamlessly. This means that when you enter your car, your phone will automatically connect to the car’s internet and some apps - other than the Tesla app - will be able to share information from your phone to the car and vice versa.
While most mobile software companies have been eager to jump on board with Tesla’s car connectivity revolution, there are some who are not so willing. Spotify, the digital music service, did not want to work with the company to integrate its software with Tesla’s OS. CEO Musk is not concerned with its decision, pointing out that it may very well change its mind in the future and strike a deal with Rdio instead. In the coming years, Tesla plans to expand its options for the consumer by allowing third party software to be downloaded to the system just as an app would be installed to a smartphone. Not only music software, but a whole range of new apps will be available. A Car AppStore will emerge in 2015 as a place where consumers can truly personalise their experience. We can only begin to imagine the possibilities in terms of performance tracking and tuning.