It was revealed for the first time today that Tesla relies on AT&T to supply its fleet of electric vehicles with Internet connectivity via the company’s wireless machine-to-machine (M2M) solution. AT&T senior vice president of emerging devices Chris Penrose revealed the partnership during the GigaOm Mobilize Conference in San Francisco.
Through the use of a wireless modem and embedded SIM card, vehicles are able to connect and share near real-time data with Tesla. Applications include the ability to help locate a stolen vehicle and provide infotainment features like Internet radio, web search, live traffic updates, weather, navigation and more through a massive 17-inch touch-enabled display.
Tesla engineers as well as drivers also have access to engine diagnostics which could help determine if there are any performance issues that need tending to before further degradation takes place. The system is additionally used to deliver updates to the car which typically takes place overnight during recharging.
Interestingly enough, the service relies on AT&T’s 3G HSPA+ network instead of their faster 4G LTE service. I suppose 3G speeds are quick enough for basic system updates and diagnostics although some owners have complained that apps like Google Maps don’t update quickly enough.
The system uses a special split SIM card that is able to differentiate between different types of data. By identifying if data is being used by the car for diagnostics or by the user for entertainment, AT&T is able to split billing according between the vehicle owner and Tesla.