Just How Good is Tesla’s GPS Tracking?

Just How Good is Tesla’s GPS Tracking?

I’ve written about this subject many, many times before … example here: GPS Tracking Can’t Find Flight 477 — and Why

But I Don’t Think I Have Mentioned Tesla Yet

Tesla automobiles are really a techno-nerds delight.  There seems to be no end of the features packed into their sophisticated operating system. (Tesla OS)

And since the Tesla OS relies heavily on the GPS it’ no secret that one of the many appealing features if the fact the Tesla is almost “un-stealable”, and if the car ever does get stolen, it will be continuously tracked by Tesla computers and thus easily recoverable by law enforcement.


In real life, though, things mat be a little different:

Two Tesla Model S PJust How Good is Tesla's GPS Tracking?90Ds have been stolen in Europe recently and despite the vehicle’s always-on GPS tracking software, the pair have disappeared without a trace.

On June 11, a Model S was stolen in Dusseldorf, Germany with the thief managing to take off with the electric sedan despite not having a key. Then on August 2, another was stolen, this time in Essen and again without a key, leading to speculation that the thieves may have hacked into the cars.

Electrek says there is a possibility the thieves could have hacked into the Tesla accounts of the owners. From there, they could have unlocked and driven the vehicles through the available smartphone application.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be much of an issue because the GPS system of the Model S makes it incredibly easy to track as it is always displaying the vehicle’s location. Strangely however, no GPS signals have been found from either, leading some to believe that the GPS systems may have been jammed or the sim card removed. (my emphasis) (read the whole article here)

Blocking GPS

There are many different ways to block GPS signals from being received.  But in this case I doubt this was done.  Blocking GPS reception to a Tesla vehicle is going to disable or degrade many features of the OS, and it’s certainly going to make the car less interesting to drive.

It’s also going to make the car less valuable if the intention is to sell it on the black market.  I mean why buy such a highly sophisticated car with many of the features missing or degraded?

The possible answer?

Don’t Block GPS Reception, Block The Tracking

The Tesla OS relies on 3G and 4G  wireless (cell phone) services in order to send the car’s GPS location back to Tesla’s central monitor and control computers.

In order to use these wireless services, the car has a SIM card (Subscriber Information Module) just like every working cell phone is equipped with.  Without a SIM card there is no two-way communication over the wireless network … USA, Europe or anywhere else in the world.

So All The Thieves Need To Do Is Remove The SIM?

It certainly seems that way.  Like any common commercial GPS tracking system, getting the cars location data back to the owner or controlling agency depends upon the cellular wireless network.

Couldn’t Tesla design the onboard computer in the car to shut the car down if it wasn’t receiving communication from “Tesla Central”?

Yes they certainly could, but the effects might be very unpredictable and annoying, even dangerous to customers.

The Entire USA, Much Less The Entire World Is NOT Covered With 2G or 3G or 4G Signals.

If you plunked down $100,000 plus bucks for a Tesla and then started driving off to your favorite hunting cabin in northern Minnesota to perhaps bag a deer before winter sets in, would you expect your Tesla to keep operating?  Even though there’s no cell signal for miles.

Well I certainly would.  So, I think, would the vast majority of Tesla owners.  Do the idea of designing the car’s own interface to make it dependent upon a cell phone signal just doesn’t seem doable.

So what do you think?

Just How Good is Tesla’s GPS Tracking?