Why Connecting Things to the Internet Doesn’t Give Me Warm Fuzzies

The tend in seemingly every market is to take features that function perfectly well without an Internet connection and make them dependent on an Internet connection. Let’s consider two old automobile features: remote door unlocking and engine starting. Most modern vehicles have the former and many now come equipped with the latter. These features are usually activated by a remote control that is attached to your key chain and have a decent range (the remote for my very basic vehicle can reliably start the engine through several walls). Tesla decided that such a basic feature wasn’t good enough for its high-tech cars and instead tied those features to the Internet. Needless to say, the inevitable happened:

Tesla’s fleet network connection is currently down, which means that owners of the EV brand of cars aren’t able to sign into the mobile app. Unfortunately, this means that they can’t remote start or remote unlock their cars, and they’re also unable to monitor their car’s charging status.

In all fairness, this isn’t an issue unique to Tesla. Any product that makes features dependent on an Internet connection will run into a service outages at one point or another. Your “smart” coffee maker’s service will eventually go down, which will force you to walk over and press the brew button like a goddamn barbarian instead of kicking off the brew cycle from an app as you continue lying in bed.

When these Internet dependent features really bite you in the ass though is when the service provider goes out of business, especially if the product itself cannot operate without the Internet service. There are a lot of current “smart” devices that will soon end up in a landfill not because they mechanically failed but because their service provider went bankrupt. While the features that became unavailable when Tesla’s service went down weren’t critical for the functionality of the vehicle, no longer being able to remotely unlock doors, start the engine, or check the charging status would really degrade the overall user experience of the company’s vehicles.