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Tesla Software Updates Much Different From Apple Updates

People often compare Tesla software updates to software updates you get on an iPhone or computer. They are actually much different from those.

Tesla’s over-the-air software updates have received plenty of virtual ink in editorials about the company, comments under articles, enthusiastic posts in forums, even more enthusiastic exclamations on social media, and market research reports. Before having a Tesla, though, these updates can seem like a minor benefit of a Tesla. There’s a reason for that, which I’ll get to in a moment. Once you have a Tesla, though, these updates turn into much more than that.

For obvious reasons, people often compare these Tesla software updates to software updates you get on an iPhone or computer. They are actually much different from those. I’ve used Apple products for several years. I’ve gotten some software updates that improved the products in noticeable ways, but I’ve never gotten an update that made a huge difference for me. I never felt like I had a truly new and significantly better product as the result of an update. In fact, I mostly avoid updates since they can make things worse, and even if they don’t make things worse, they typically don’t seem to offer any clear improvements. This is nothing like my or other people’s experiences with a Tesla.

Instead of constantly clicking to delay updates on our phones or computers, Tesla owners are frequently fanatical about getting Tesla software updates ASAP. Once word is out that a new update has started rolling out, many owners may check for an update hundreds of times before they finally get it. If they see other Tesla owners tweeting exciting new features, many Tesla owners get envious and wonder what vile sin they’ve committed that slighted them from an early update. Tesla drivers exuberantly share new features, pictures of their software (er, firmware) update bars as downloads are in progress, the long numbers indicating the firmware version they are on, and a large variety of emojis expressing all different emotions.

Is it all just hype? Is it because Tesla owners are crazy? Is it some form of odd virtue signaling? Well, those things may be in play at times, but the driving force behind this abnormal behavior is that Tesla firmware updates can improve your car in big ways.

My Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus has gotten more range, quicker acceleration, several new features for drivers and passengers alike, huge improvements to the driver-assist features (Autopilot and Full Self-Driving), and a bunch of “Tesla Theater” and “Tesla Arcade” options — Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Stardew Valley, Beach Buggy, Chess, Fallout Shelter, Cuphead, and more. (Admittedly, I have never played Cuphead, seldom play Chess and Fallout Shelter, and have never watched anything on Hulu, but I think it’s cool that the features exist and my family and I thoroughly enjoy the other options listed above.)

Yes, many updates are minor, invisible even. However, there are many updates that give your car such an improvement that they feel like Christmas presents. They may even increase the value of your car.

Here are screenshots of some of the updates I’ve received in the past year+ of Model 3 ownership:

That’s right — my Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus got:

  • the ability to automatically stop at red lights and stop signs
  • Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube
  • Caraoke
  • Spotify
  • more range
  • more power
  • Stardew Valley, Fallout Shelter, Chess, and other games
  • backup camera side views to help avoid rim rash
  • improvements to Sentry Mode (a security feature that came to Teslas before I bought mine)
  • the option to have the car not automatically lock when it’s at your home
  • recording of the interior of your car just before a collision
  • a scheduled departure time so that your car preps the climate and charge level before a planned trip/daily commute
  • information on whether Superchargers are out of order
  • the ability to summon my car — have it drive over to me
  • improvements to make Backgammon harder (… yeah, this one’s weird)
  • and much more.

It’s hard to explain the experience of getting all of these updates. Actually, it’s impossible. There is no other product I know of that gets such significant updates on a regular basis. And if you want to dive much deeper down this rabbit hole, check out Alex Voigt’s article on Tesla basically introducing a new business model. It sounds dramatic, but when you consider the significance of a car purchase as well as Tesla’s policy of constantly making your car better, and you try to think of one other product that constantly improves like this, the claim makes a lot more sense.

Here are some other stories on Tesla firmware improvements we’ve seen in the past year or so.


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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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