The car that came from the Silicon Valley, the Tesla S has some premiere connected car features. What do we know about the Tesla S connected experience and how is it being used? Is it bleeding edge or in need of an upgrade?
The Tesla S comes with a a 17″ touchscreen using AT&T HSPA+ fast data (not as fast as LTE) for free for four years included in the price of the car (some extra charges for extreme data use). The screen is used for car features such as power consumption usage and controls for the roof, ride height and steering modes. It also has Bluetooth for hands free phone calls.
The wireless network access is used for remote diagnostics and over-the-air software updates. The driver can access HD radio, online/Internet and Bluetooth or USB audio devices. There are two audio USB ports for charging. The system is powered by a Nvidia Tegra processor.
The Tesla S infotainment system was beyond state of the for 2012 when it was in development. However, since it is HSPA+ the network connections are slower than the approaching OnStar AT&T 4G LTE on select 2015 Chevy GM models and in new Audi cars some could say it is lagging behind other car makers. Audi A3 car owners will have to pay $99.99 for six months of LTE access (first six months free) while Chevy AT&T pricing has not been announced yet.
Tesla S buyers who paid top price for their cars probably would not want to pay for web access. They probably did not realize that outside sources could track Tesla browser usage by it’s identifying code (user agent). The web browser that can be used at all times even when the car is in motion does not support Flash animation but does support HTML 5.
Web analytics firm Quantcast chronicled what type of websites are being visited by Tesla S car owners. Quantcast is used on many websites but not all.
Quantcast analyzed 463k pages on websites with more than 100 page view. The majority of sites viewed (54%) were news sites, followed by 15% services, 14% Entertainment, 12% Lifestyle and 5% other.
The most visited news site was the Drudge report with 10% while local news accounted for 26% of news sites visited. Financial news came in with 13% of news views. A big surprize was that Surfline.com that shows surf conditions was one of the top three sports sites.
The most popular state for Tesla S browsing was California and most popular times for web usage was during business and commuting hours. Quantcast notes that the profile of a Tesla owner is an early adopter, living in California with a high income. Tesla owners probably also live near the beach.
So does any other car on the market have such a history or web browsing?
Some head units disable browsing, video and social media features per NHTSA guidelines. For example, the top rated for connectivity BMW’s ConnectedDrive Services reads select apps out loud. For safety reasons, the BMW Control Display only shows content when the vehicle is at parked. Internet access in the rear is available during the ride.
The screen size on the Tesla S is still one of the largest single-screened head units around. The 2014 Infinity Q50 has two 11″ touchscreens* which total more screen space than the Tesla’s screen.
Is Tesla S really the top connected car?
Silicon Valley types who believe web access and catching the perfect wave report is more important than driver safety will continue to buy and believe the Tesla S is the best connected car around.
The Tesla S definitely has much better battery life than a smartphone or tablet. The Tesla S 85 kWh model uses 8,000 18/650 laptop battery cells.
Charging time for the battery pack can be comparable with smartphones. The batteries in the car can take 3.5 hours to charge for a 265 miles ride with unlimited web surfing.
* I phoned an Infinity dealer to find out the size of the screens, it does not appear in the specifications from Infinity.