As cars get smarter, they inevitably need better connectivity. Tesla’s electric vehicles have LTE radios to pull down OTA (over-the-air) updates, traffic data, and even stream music. However, the free LTE ride is about to end. Starting July 1, Tesla will no longer include unlimited premium LTE services with new cars.
Tesla packs its cars with fancy entertainment and mapping features, which are tied into the large 17-inch touch-screen display in the center console. The interface is powered by an Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC and runs a version of Linux. It seems a shame to limit its connectivity, but this move fits with Tesla’s trend toward trimming down the free extras. In 2016, it also announced that supercharger usage would no longer be free for new vehicles. People seem to want Teslas now even if they don’t get freebies.
Anyone who already has a Tesla will continue enjoying the premium LTE service at no charge, even after the July 1st cutoff date. However, newly purchased or leased Teslas will be stuck with the basic LTE package at the free tier. While it’s called “basic,” it does still include some nice features, such as turn-by-turn navigation over cellular and OTA updates. However, those OTAs will only be the safety-related critical updates. For example, when Tesla raised the suspension height of the Model S to minimize the risk of battery damage. Any feature updates will require a Wi-Fi connection to download on the car.
A premium LTE subscription in a Tesla vehicle will add live traffic visualizations, satellite maps, and full OTA update access. This subscription also lets you stream music directly to your car and access web pages. This is all included free of charge on current Tesla vehicles. Without the premium features, you can still get music into the car using your phone and Bluetooth. That’s not as convenient, though.
As for the cost, most are predicting around $100 per year. That’s not bad when you consider your cell phone data probably costs you almost that much every month. Tesla is expected to thrown in a free trial of premium LTE with new Model S and Model X vehicles, but you’ll have to start paying for the premium features after a year.
If you really can’t live without the free LTE, you’ve still got a few days to pick up a Tesla. Although, the LTE subscription is a drop in the bucket compared with the cost of the car itself.
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