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Locked out of our Model S (with easy solution)

Discussion in 'Model S: User Interface' started by Klaus, Sep 4, 2013.

  1. Klaus

    Klaus Member

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    This happened this afternoon in San Francisco: We met up with friends from overseas and after a nice Dim Sum drove up to Twin Peaks. It was a gorgeous day, and we enjoyed great views from up there ... Then one of our friends had the idea to have his picture taken sitting in the Tesla with the city in the background. We went back to the car which had auto-locked, and my wife who was driving today was trying to open it. Door handles would not present. She had the key fob in her hand. Pushing key fob buttons did nothing. Pushing on the door handles did nothing. I placed the key fob at the magic spot at the passenger's side of the windshield. No go. We were locked out, in the relative middle of nowhere at the top of San Francisco.

    I thought "I can try one more thing" and whipped out my iPhone (my wife had left hers in the car). The Model S app took a few seconds to connect, and tapping the "Unlock" button and confirming the "Do you really want to unlock the car" dialog - a couple more (loooong) seconds and the door handles swooped out. All good!

    Our friend (who is a car buff and electronics expert as well as ham radio licensed) mentioned that he had seen the same thing and heard of others having the same issue with his mother's Smart car at the parking lot of a public swimming pool in our childhood town in Germany. I think he said that not only was the car locked but could not be started either in that situation. It was determined to be RF interference from an adjacent telecommunications tower of Telekom, the German phone and wireless company.

    There are a bunch of radio and microwave antennas on that part of Twin Peaks, and Sutro Tower, the main radio and TV transmission tower in San Francisco is within spitting distance. So he suggested that it was most likely some RF interference that caused the key fob to stop working. We confirmed that at a spot down from Twin Peaks where we stopped and had no trouble locking and unlocking the car with the key fob. Driving once unlocked was not an issue for us.

    Later this afternoon I called Tesla to tell them of our experience and our suspicion for the cause. The agent was very patient listening to my story (not as rambling as this writeup :) and said that there have been reports of similar incidences with Model S' at 2 locations in Southern California. If I remember correctly, one is called Mt. Wilson? Mine was the first report he knew of from Northern California or anywhere else. He also said (sensibly) that this was not isolated to Teslas or EVs, but not uncommon with modern cars with similar remote entry key fobs. He said that tow truck drivers confirmed that this was a regular occurrence at certain spots.

    The bottom line: When you drive your Model S up to Twin Peaks make sure your key fob works before you lock the car or let it lock itself. Just in case, take your iPhone (or Droid) with you, and be thankful that the Tesla's 3G communication still works up there. Watch out for the same thing on other viewing spots with big antennas around ...
     
  2. andrewket

    andrewket 2014 S P85DL, 2016 X P90DL (soon 100)

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    If you search the forum you will find the other stories that the Tesla rep mentioned. It is caused by RF interference.

    I'm glad you had your phone and that it worked out for you.

    A
     
  3. Klaus

    Klaus Member

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    I searched for "interference" and "locked out" before posting but didn't get any hits. That was on the Model S forum using Tapatalk ...

    I would appreciate links. Moderators, if appropriate, please move to corresponding older thread and delete this topic. Thanks!
     
  4. NoMoDinos

    NoMoDinos Member

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    Klaus - thanks for the heads up. If I see any big radio towers, I'll keep on driving :)
     
  5. gaswalla

    gaswalla P4201/85/airsusp/pano/19i

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    Yes.. RF interference: in So Cal: Mt Wilson and Mt Soledad (La Jolla/San Diego) are known problem areas
     
  6. Klaus

    Klaus Member

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    Thanks!

    To clarify, I completely agree with the RF interference explanation, being ham radio licensed and EE by first training and long time hobby myself. I personally experienced plenty of other cases of RF interference during my ham radio days. One was that I wasn't allowed to broadcast on the 40 m band while my parents were watching TV Others near high power radio towers. In Germany, many "FM" radio broadcast transmitters are 100 kW (!) and you can light up things nearby connecting them to a small antenna.

    What's not entirely clear is where exactly in the system the interference occurs. In my opinion it's much more likely to occur in the receiver end inside the car, rather affecting the key fob itself. And it might very well be out of band interference rather than a strong signal on the key fob frequency drowning it out. In that case the RF design of the receiver could be improved to make it more resistant to that effect.
     
  7. mknox

    mknox Well-Known Member

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    Years ago, I used to park inside of electrical substations and found my car's remote fob wouldn't work there either. Of course in those days, there was still a keyhole on the driver's door and a hidden metal key inside of the fob for "emergencies".

    tik-cad-28_1.jpg
     
  8. DrComputer

    DrComputer Member

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    We has the same problem last year on our TeslaClubLA drive to Mt. Wilson. As you can see, we were right next to the transmitter towers. Our keyfobs would only work when we were in the car.

    IMAG0308.jpg
     
  9. mknox

    mknox Well-Known Member

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    I'm thinking a huge RF-blocking blanket that you can spread over the car and then crawl under with your fob. Something else for my frunk :biggrin:
     
  10. Mayhemm

    Mayhemm Model S P85+ "Lola"

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    I'd be surprised if there isn't an Apple/Android app for measuring the amount of RF interference in a given area. If you think you're in a risky area, just whip that out before you lock your car.
     
  11. Klaus

    Klaus Member

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    If you remember to unlock your frunk
     
  12. Newscutter

    Newscutter Member

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    Okay. I still plan to get one.... but I keep seeing posts like this. Here's my problem: I work at a TV station. We have quite a few active antennas on the property!
     
  13. mknox

    mknox Well-Known Member

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    Damn! I didn't think that through!!
     
  14. Newscutter

    Newscutter Member

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    Only way my phone would unlock the car would be if I smashed it through the window. Guess I'll have to upgrade my phone when I upgrade my car! :biggrin:
     
  15. huntjo

    huntjo Member

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    Lol
     
  16. Btrflyl8e

    Btrflyl8e Active Member

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    What do you use? The Saved By The Bell Zack Morris cell phone? download.jpg
     
  17. lloyds

    lloyds Member

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    Thanks for the heads up. I've had it happen to my BMW before, but it turned out to be my Huper Optic tint messing with my comfort access.
     
  18. Newscutter

    Newscutter Member

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    HA! I asked for that.

    I skipped a little farther up the "semi-dumb" phone chain than the old bricks-- but haven't been able to justify the cost of anything fancier. One of the reasons I'm able to consider dropping cash on a car like this is because my phone(s) only cost about $7/month each... they make calls, they text, and in a pinch they'll connect to the web. No apps though, they're not that "smart." If you know of a plan/provider that can put an iPhone in my hands for that price point-- let me know! Every time I price shop smartphones/data plans, my head hurts.

    But I digress... I can settle for parking in the garage maybe and using the 30 amp plugs normally used for live trucks. I'll just leave the window down.
     
  19. K5ING

    K5ING MegaMiler

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    Ham guy and former TV station employee here... isn't most of your station's transmitting done via microwave to the transmitter site? Or is your transmitter onsite? I don't think microwaves would interfere with the key fob's signal, especially since they are directional, but the main transmitter might.
     
  20. wycolo

    wycolo Active Member

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    If I return to Mt Wilson, this time by Tesla as opposed to hiking, I'll just leave the car ON, in Neutral with the doors ajar, in case the wind pushes enough to click one 'shut', and a pair of chocks on a wheel. Enough qualifiers . . oh, I'll put on my foil-lined shorts before reaching the summit.
    --
     

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