With the 6.0 update of the Model S firmware comes a new app — Calendar. While controversial, Tesla lists the Calendar app as “beta” or pre-release functionality. As thousands of Model S owners receive this new functionality this style (like Gmail in beta for years) is a bit questionable but we’ll focus on the app features and leave the positioning for someone else to question further.
The calendar app is a new top level application that appears with version 6.0 of the Tesla firmware. Whether you use the app or not it appears you’re going to get this icon on your 17″ display.
This app shows up to 2 days worth of upcoming appointments and lets you quickly navigate to the locations of those appointments.
For this app to work you must have the following in place:
- Version 2.0 or higher of the Model S app on your smartphone
- You must provide access to your smartphone calendars to the Model S app
- The smartphone and your car must have good internet connectivity.
The way this works is the Model S app on your phone gets access to your native calendars then sends them to Tesla’s servers which then sends them down to your car.
While this is an interesting way to make connections where existing technologies are limited today, it does call into question some of the security aspects of such an approach. Is my calendar information open to Tesla employees? How do they protect this private data?
Beware the privacy of your data. Tesla makes no statements about this for this new functionality.
This data is sent periodically and is not instant although they say that launching the Model S app will trigger a refresh. When you have the app visible you can see which phone it’s getting calendar data from (the currently active phone) and there’s a little clock icon which brings up some additional information:
Other than the tips to make the app work, the useful part is the last time the calendar was synchronized (updated) which is the top right (12:21 pm in this example). Depending on your smartphone you will need to go through a couple prompts the first time to allow the Model S app access to your calendar data.
Under settings, the app has just a single setting for when to automatically show the calendar:
When displayed, the calendar will show all upcoming appointments. If there are none left in the day it will only show the next day’s appointments (not the next 2 days). Other than scrolling the list, the only thing you can do with the entries is to press on them. Pressing on an entry causes it to feed the calendar entry location to the navigation app. If it’s an address or resolves to a single result it will start navigating to the destination immediately, otherwise you’ll get the standard navigation search results.
There’s something else in the release notes for the calendar app that I have yet to experience:
“When you have an event on your Calendar that will take place within the next hour and has a uniquely specified location, the Model S navigation system will notify you if there is a better route due to traffic, even if you’re not using navigation.”
I’ll be watching for this functionality over the coming weeks.
I started testing the calendar app with an iPhone 5 running iOS 8 and was unable to make it work. I followed all the steps Tesla provided and after more than 6 hours time to sync I still had no calendar entries shown in the app in my Model S. Later, reading online, I saw that you may have to un-pair/re-pair your phone with your car to get it to take effect. I got an iPhone 6 the next day and essentially paired a new phone to the car and all of a sudden things started working.
Tip: You may need to re-pair your bluetooth phone with the Model S to get the calendar to start working initially.
Once the calendar entries started appearing I was able to see both iCloud calendar entries and my Google Apps calendar entries in the car.
In looking at the entries I noticed that in the calendar app on the car I saw both my calendar entries and those of my co-founder. I have his calendar subscribed on my phone so I can find him in a pinch but I usually have the calendar turned off in the iPhone Calendar app. The Model S does not honor the on/off setting on the iPhone so if you have subscribed but disabled calendars you’ll see all of them. This was a pain since I didn’t want to see his entries in my car all the time (or even yet be told how to get to them through traffic) but I still wanted to be able to check his calendar on the go on my iPhone. I ended up removing his calendar from my iPhone (by changing the poorly documented Google Sync Settings) and using the Google app on the iPhone to access his calendar in the more native way on the rare times I need it. It’s as clean an approach, but it’s a passable workaround. I’d like to see Tesla provide an option to hide/unhide selected calendars or honor the smartphone’s setting.
Tip: All subscribed calendars will appear on the Model S, even if hidden on your smartphone.
While somehow a “beta” app, the app behaves well once the initial sync is complete. It’s unclear what will happen when you have the Model S app running one more than one device (I have an iPad and an iPhone, both with the Model S app on it) and if they will cause confusion. I’d also like to see some statements around privacy (perhaps thats why its beta?) and some options to turn on/off various calendars. But overall I think its a great addition to the car and it seems to work well given a few days of playing with it.
I don’t really know what drove Tesla to add this app with the complexities involved rather than solving some things higher up the owners priority lists like USB shuffling. It is a great technology demonstration that much is possible with this bridge from the Model S app on the smartphone to the car, but I worry that they’re not focussed enough on what the owners are asking for which would take much less work in many cases and would probably make them even more grateful for the software updates.