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Early Teslas are losing cell service thanks to 3G shutdown

Tesla model 3 vs Tesla model Y: range
(Image credit: TeslA)

Update: Elon Musk claims the first Tesla Robot prototype will be unveiled this September — but we're not convinced

Tesla is the most popular electric car company in the world, but the company is not without its issues. Turns out, building a car company from scratch and becoming absurdly popular in the process is actually quite difficult. And it's been a year of ups and downs for Tesla

Whether it's long-standing complaints about quality control, criticisms about full self-driving beta testing, or any other myriad of issues faced by the company, uncomfortable news has become common among its customers and fans.

While Tesla isn't a complete dumpster fire of problems, there are still a lot of issues, and keeping tabs on them all can be tricky. So here are all the ongoing issues affecting Tesla and Tesla owners.

All the issues affecting Tesla right now (Updated Feb 24)

Feb 24: Older Teslas are losing connectivity thanks to 3G shutdown

3G network infrastructure is in the process of shutting down across the United States, which is going to have an impact on any older pre-4G devices. Among those devices are some early Teslas.

All teslas have had a data connection since the launch of the Model S in 2012, but cars sold before 2015 were only equipped with 3G modems. Without a connection all the car's connected features, like navigation, software updates, and remote system controls, will be useless.

 Tesla has already started warning affected owners about this (via Elektrek), offering the option for them to upgrade their modems to something 4G-friendly. This costs $200, and can be scheduled in the Tesla app via the Schedule Service > Upgrades & Accessories > LTE Upgrade menus.

$200 may seem like a lot, but these early cars also came with lifetime access to tesla's premium connectivity — which currently costs $10 a month. If you plan on keeping your Model S for at least two more years, then the upgrade is well worth its cost.

Feb 18: Tesla faces a lawsuit alleging suspension failure caused a deadly Model 3 crash

Tesla is being sued (opens in new tab) by the family of a man who died after his Model 3 left the road and crashed into trees near his home in Coral Gables, Florida. The man and his passenger both died with the car engulfed in flames.

Video of the incident shows sparks coming from beneath the car as it sped through an intersection and Nicholas Garcia's family believes that was caused as the car bottomed out — allegedly due to faulty suspension. 

The suit claims that same car had been serviced by Tesla just four days earlier after Garcia complained of steering and suspension issues. A recall on Model 3 cars had also been made due to faulty suspension, although that isn't mentioned in the lawsuit and it isn't clear whether this particular car was one of the affected models.

Tesla and the service manager who inspected the car are both being sued — the carmaker for an allegedly faulty design and its employee for allegedly not inspecting the car properly.

Feb 18: NHTSA has opened another investigation into Tesla's phantom braking problem

Tesla once again finds itself the subject of an investigation (opens in new tab) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) amid ongoing concerns surrounding the phantom braking of Model 3 and Model Y EVs.

The NHTSA says that it will be looking into more than 400,000 Model 3 and Model Y cars from 2021 and 2022 model years, following the receipt of more than 350 complaints in just nine months.

Phantom braking is a concern because cars have been found to brake for no obvious reason while Autopilot is engaged. That in turn has the potential to cause accidents when following vehicles struggle to react to the unexpected slow-down of the Tesla in front of them. 

Thankfully, no accidents or injuries have been reported so far but the concern is that phantom braking, particularly on a highway, could have dire consequences.

Feb 17: Non-Tesla Supercharging has a parking issue

Tesla is currently trialling a new program that gives non-Tesla drivers access to the previously exclusive Supercharger network, in an attempt to see how such a situation might impact both the Supercharger network and Tesla drivers. 

While this can only be a good thing in the long term, a short-term issue has popped up. It's not that Tesla owners have to compete for charging space, which was a concern, but the fact that Superchargers are not designed for non-Teslas.

To put it simply, some people are struggling to plug in, because the Supercharger cable length has been designed to plug into a Tesla charging port. That means there may not be enough cable (opens in new tab) to reach ports on non-Tesla cars.

There have been instances (opens in new tab) of non-Teslas blocking Superchargers with weird and wonderful parking methods - all so they can plug in. However Tesla support (opens in new tab) advices people to categorically not do this. Because it's a jerk move, and all you'll do is make people angry and make yourself look like a jackass.

However it's something Tesla is going to deal with if it seriously wants to make Superchargers available to everyone.

Feb 16: Elon Musk admits Tesla is to blame for Model X delays

Trying to get a Tesla Model X means a very long wait. The earliest you can hope to get one is this October, but only if you pick up the super-expensive $126,490 Model X Plaid. The standard model, which starts at $104,990, won't be arriving until January 2023 at the earliest.

If you want the five-seater with the cheaper 20-inch wheels option, you'll have to wait until May 2023. Needless to say it's pretty bad.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has admitted (opens in new tab) Tesla itself "dropped the ball regarding new Model X production ramp"

See more

Turns out stopping production on a very in-demand car was not a good idea — even if there were replacements waiting in the wings. Tesla should have kept going until it was completely ready to deliver on the refreshed version of the car. 

Unfortunately the problem isn't likely to go anywhere anytime soon. Musk claims (opens in new tab) the car is the "most complex passenger car ever" and "extremely difficult to build". Whether that's true or not, it's now obvious Tesla is struggling and only has itself to blame for the fracas.

Feb 3: Tesla is having more phantom braking issues

After being forced to recall a Full Self Driving software update back in October, it appears Tesla owners are still having problems with "phantom braking". In other words, Tesla's are hitting the brakes for no discernable reason and owners have been complaining to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Washington Post (opens in new tab) reports that the NHTSA has had 107 complaints over the past three months. The previous 22 months had just 34 complaints.

Some owners have complained that Teslas are overly sensitive to trucks in the opposite lane, while others claim their Teslas hit the brakes despite there being no other cars on the road. Obviously that poses a serious dangers to Tesla drivers, and other cars on the road.

The NHTSA hasn't verified the reports, but a spokesperson said that the agency is "engaging in a dialogue" with Tesla over the incidents.

Feb 1: Tesla recalls FSD's 'Assertive Mode' feature. Again

Tesla's Full Self Driving beta has just had to recall yet another update. Assertive Mode originally launched back in December, only to be recalled two days later (opens in new tab) after drivers experienced issues with traffic light left turns and unexpected stopping. 

Assertive Mode returned last month promising cars would "have a smaller follow distance, perform more frequent speed lane changes, will not exit passing lanes and may perform rolling stops." 

A rolling stop is where the driver treats an intersection stop sign as a yield sign, slowing down instead of coming to a complete stop. According to ABC News (opens in new tab) the FSD software allowed the car to roll through stop signs at up to 5.6mph. The problem is, rolling stops are illegal in many U.S. states, causing regulators to get involved.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officials met with Tesla, who reportedly agreed to the recall (opens in new tab). While the automaker says it doesn't know if the feature caused any injuries or crashes, the NHTSA says that failure to stop can increase the risk of a crash. 

So an OTA update has been released to the 54,0000 affected Teslas, recalling the update, and putting an end to Assertive Mode for the second time.

Jan 19: A Tesla driver is being charged with vehicular manslaughter after an Autopilot crash

Can a driver be held responsible for something an autonomous car system does? California prosecutors seem to think so, having filed charges against one Tesla owner that was involved in a crash while Autopilot was active — a crash that resulted in the loss of two lives.

The incident took place in Gardena, Los Angeles, in 2019, involving a Model S driven by Kevin George Aziz Riad. Autopilot was engaged when the Model S skipped a red light and hit a Honda Civic — killing its two occupants and injuring a passenger in the Model S.

The NHTSA confirmed Autopilot was active at the time, and Elektrek (opens in new tab) notes that Autopilot didn't have a red light feature at the time of the crash. Tesla also warns drivers that they should pay attention, and be ready to retake control at any time.

The Washington Post (opens in new tab) suggests this is the first time a driver in the United States has been charged with a felony as a result of a car crash involving a partially automated driving systems. So needless to say it'll be interesting to see how this case plays out, and what legal precedents may be set.

Riad has pled not guilty, and is out on bail.

Jan 13: California opens investigation into Full Self Driving Autopilot beta

Having the general public beta test its Full Self Driving Autopilot software has drawn a lot of criticism for Tesla. In fact there have been a number of high-profile incidents involving the beta, which is causing the California DMV to "revisit" its decision to not regulate the software.

In the past the DMV has claimed Tesla's FSD beta doesn't fall under its autonomous vehicle program, because there's still a human driver in the mix. Despite the name, FSD is not actual self driving, only an upgraded version of the existing Level 2 autonomous software Tesla calls Autopilot.

However DMV director Steve Gordon has informed (opens in new tab) Tesla that it would be revisiting this decision "following recent software updates, videos showing a dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the opinions of other experts in this space.”

“If the capabilities of the feature meet the definition of an autonomous vehicle per California’s law and regulations, DMV will take steps to make certain that Tesla operates under the appropriate autonomous vehicle permits,”

Dec 30: Tesla issues recall for most Model 3 and Model S vehicles

Tesla has issued a massive 475,000 vehicle recall for the Model 3 and Model S. It affects Model 3 units made between 2017-2020 and Model S units made from 2014 onwards. 

For the Model 3, the issue comes down to the rear-view camera harness which may become damaged from opening and closing the rear trunk. This could leave drivers without access to rear-view camera footage. 

On the Model S, a faulty front trunk latch may lead to the "frunk" opening suddenly, which could be especially dangerous while driving.

Dec 8: Teslas let you play video games while driving

It's possible to play video games on Tesla's infotainment system, that isn't exactly news. But did you know it's possible to play them while the car is moving? That's the same following an update earlier this year.

Right now it seems that Solitaire, Sky Force Reloaded and The Battle of Polytopia: Moonrise can be played while the car is moving. While designed for passengers, there are no measures in place to stop the driver from having a game either. That would be a spectacularly stupid thing to do, but the fact is it shouldn't even be possible.

For starters the infotainment system is an essential part of a Tesla, especially if you're on cheaper models that don't have a display behind the steering wheel. Having a passenger play can also be distracting to the driver, and considering how dangerous cars are this is the last thing you want.

Honestly, Tesla should have known better. As all the instances of people sleeping with Autopilot on show, you can't trust people to always do the sensible thing.

Dec 2: Tesla has been found guilty of throttling charging speed (again)

Back in 2019 (opens in new tab) Tesla owners started seeing significant drops in range, between 12 and 30 miles following a software update. According to Tesla, the update was designed to “protect the battery and improve battery longevity" and that it would only affect "a small percentage of owners".

While another update eventually reversed these changes, affected owners still noticed that Supercharging speed was slower than before. Naturally this led to a number of lawsuits.

One such lawsuit in Norway found Tesla guilty and ordered the company to pay $136,000 kroner (just shy of $15,000) to each affected user. However Tesla was a no-show at the trial, later claiming that it wasn't aware it was happening. So the company was given a retrial, which just concluded. 

Tesla admitted the change, according to Dagens Næringsliv (opens in new tab), but claimed it wasn't responsible for compensation because "customers were not entitled to any given charging pattern". However it seems the court disagreed, and Tesla was found guilty once again. 

Though this time it has been ordered to pay 130,000 kroner, which is roughly $14,300. That's significantly higher then the $625 (opens in new tab) it paid out to affected owners after settling as similar lawsuit in the U.S. Naturally the automaker is taking the case to the District Court to appeal the decision, so we haven't heard the last of this story just yet.

Tom Pritchard
Automotive Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.