No 3G bars = black navi, but what a awesome drive in the woods!

No 3G bars = black navi, but what a awesome drive in the woods!

Work was killing for the past week, but today, I finally got a chance to take the Model S out for a spin in the Calaveras hills near my home. Within 5 minutes, the bars were zero, and the navi was black.

I thought there was a GPS antenna as well as cellular, just like most smart phones. Looks like Model S has what we called A-GPS in the previous company I was with (used to work for the cellphone chip design division) - works by mobile tower triangulation. I paid how much for the tech package again?

The drive OTOH was beyond anything I have experienced. You can suck on this, BMW M5! I mean it. I have many times driven that V10 beast on curvy switch backs just like the ones I drove on today, and boy, the Model S can dance. Bye bye BMW, bye bye Porsche, bye bye Ferr.. may be not.

May be one day, all cars will be made like this. | 2 aprile 2013

Glad you had fun!

The MS does have GPS. If you have a destination set, the instrument panel nav screen will continue to work fine without 3G with guidance to your destination. Only the Google maps requires 3G.

RedShift | 2 aprile 2013

Boy, how much we have progressed. In 2003, my Honda Accord with navi was fine wherever we took it to. 10 years later, I step out 5 minutes into the hills, screen goes dark, coz google is so smart.


hiroshiy | 2 aprile 2013

@RedShift, my P85 is still backordered since I live in Japan and I need right hand drive thus my comment is just a speculation (sorry!).
Can you cache the map like you do in Google Maps for Android?

RedShift | 2 aprile 2013


Nope, doesn't look like it. The display was completely dark most of the time in the hills.

Not sure if there is some software monkey trick I need to know in order to cache the maps. Seems pretty stupid not to have cached mapping, doesn't it, especially for a car of this stature. Also, doesn't Model S have some flash memory to store media and other such stuff? Surely, you should be able to use some of that space for caching? I mean, the DVD in the DVD-based navi in my erstwhile Accord was probably something like 4 GB capacity, and was used to display the maps. If you have 16 GB or even 32 GB (how much is a fast SD card that is 32 GB nowadays? 20 bucks?) should be enough. (I know, I know, the display is HD, and all that, but you could do vector graphics and extrapolate the pixels, I am sure, with lesser initial data)

shs | 2 aprile 2013

I understand that the ability to cache maps will come with WiFi. I also enjoy the MS country roads in Mariposa Co.

RedShift | 2 aprile 2013

I remember reading that the terrible iMaps on my iPhone5 (still love it, and still an Apple fan and believer) uses vector graphics and does not need to call the mother ship as often as the google maps (much better interface and accurate, of course).

Too late for that in my Model S eh?

RedShift | 2 aprile 2013


What's wifi got to do with it. In the hills you don't have cellular or wifi. This is a inherent problem with google maps and their approach to navigation.

On that subject of wifi, when the heck is that going to be available? I don't want to pay extra bucks per month for ATT 3G in my car, when I already pay for tethering on my Verizon iPhone 5.

Vawlkus | 3 aprile 2013

When wifi goes active, it has been theorized that the onboard storage will be made available as well, which will in turn mean google maps will then be able to be cached at that time.

RedShift | 3 aprile 2013

Oh, so that's the theory. I see!

shs | 3 aprile 2013

That's the theory. BTW, I have no cell coverage where I live, but the house does have WiFi and and AT&T microcell. The car sees bars, but not a 3G signal. The only way I can potentially get new software is to spend time in town. So far hasn't happened.

cschock | 3 aprile 2013

If you have the tech package, your turn by turn navigation will not go out when you lose the 3G signal. I live in an area of Northern CA where the cell phone reception is spotty at best. Just last Friday we went to dinner at an out of the way restaurant and our turn by turn (alongside the speedometer) worked perfectly to keep us going in the right direction even when the Google maps blacked out.

The navigation app on the control panel did black out, but the turn by turn displayed there did not. So while it could not download map panels outside of range, it does seem to still display turn by turn in both locations if you have that feature due to the tech package.

Of course, this begs the question of what happens if you want to START navigation outside of 3G signal range. I've yet to try that, but I will this weekend when we take a weekend trip to the Northern California coast. I suspect it should work properly, but we'll see.

DouglasR | 3 aprile 2013

@cschock - If you know you will be out of range, load the route while you still have a signal, and then try using "History" to load it when the signal is gone. I'm not sure it will work, but worth a try.

ChristianG | 3 aprile 2013

did you have a Destination typed or did you just wanted to drive by the maps? The Trun by Turn Navigation on the Dashboard should work from waht other People and tesla said.

I completely agree with you that the System kinda sucks. Why they didn't use the Garmin for both I don't understand. Also the implementation for Google maps is worse than on cell phones. The Programmers seem to be far behind.

Living in a small Country in Europe I'd have to pay a LOT for roaming when traveling to Austria or Germany and still wanting to use the Screen. OH and getting to those countries is like 20 minutes, so it does happen.

shs | 3 aprile 2013

I just tested this at home where I have no connectivity. If you try a voice command for Navigation, it won't work. However, if you type in an address, the Navigon software will find that address in its data base (assuming it is a real address) and puts turn-by-turn info on both screens.

Since I often drive in areas without cell coverage, I bought Navigon for my iPhone and it works the same way as one can download and cache maps when connected and use them without connectivity. The only problem with the iPhone is that because it has A-GPS it needs a cell connection to get its original location. Once that is established the GPS and maps work with or without cell reception. So far the MS seems to not need help establishing it position, even without cell coverage.

lov2krz | 3 aprile 2013

I too have had no 3G at home when I want to set a destination. I have to drive about 2 miles to get 3G then I can enter a destination and activate turn by turn in the Tech Package.

I've called and written Tesla Ownership and their answer is that in the future Navi will be a separate function not dependent on Google maps or 3G.

I have a $100 Garmin LTM1190 (lifetime maps) and I can program it in my garage (it can see the satellites it needs) and get turn by turn directions. Just thinking about $100 portable unit that should have the same function as in my wonderful MS Tech Package really fry's my butt. Furthermore, to think that in the future I'll get functionality that I paid for already is really frustrating.

Before I get lectured on cutting Tesla a break because they are a start up I need to say the car is great, fun to drive and gets lots of attention. I also need to say that Tesla Ownership Experience hasn't been easy to get action from about this issue or being able to give me an estimated date for the delivery of my parcel shelf. I consider these non-critical but important.

That is the end of my rant.

shs | 3 aprile 2013


Under the same circumstances, i.e. no cell reception, mine works fine if I type in the address as I indicated above. What is does not do is to find things like stores by name, you need a real address, or at least a city. The search I did a few minutes ago was "Yosemite" and it came back with two choices, 9 miles from the house. I chose one and it put up turn by turn instruction in both windows. I have 4.2 software.

RedShift | 3 aprile 2013


I did not have a destination set. It was a joy ride in the hills :-)

What I find a bit unsettling is that the maps are so dependent on the cell phone signal. We are *assuming* they will do cached maps in the future. I hope they do. They have a lot of things on the plate right now.

This all begs the question: when the initial tide of early adopters wanes, what next? The next wave is going to be pickier and less forgiving. They will want all the nice-to-haves to be implemented before pulling the trigger. Tesla better get working on some missing features pronto.

I saw a news article that BMW will be shuttering it's M division soon to focus on electrics. (on BBC, yesterday) If true, it's cause for concern for Tesla. Their i series is not very attractive right now, but if they come out with a super sedan going head to head with Tesla, it will spell trouble.

With all due respect to Tesla, BMW knows how to build cars with awesome interiors and well balanced platforms. If they marry that to a reasonably good electric drive, what then?

RedShift | 3 aprile 2013

Don't get me wrong, I love my Tesla. However, for all the 'simple, elegant interior' claims, I know it's a cheap interior in it's heart, not a true luxury interior. It has it's luxury touches, to be sure, but they are haphazardly strewn about and the interior is not well-thought through, it seems to me.

The cup holders are in the wrong place, the visors are ridiculous, the rubber seals around the door are warped in places, the storage is barely there, etc. The nappa leather is beautiful, the LED lights have a nice glow, but are cheap to the touch and operation. The seat belts snag on something and cant lock into place without extenders. They did not even include rear floor mats!

All this rant for what I think is the best driving car! I swear I do. I am also very very picky.

Sorry, I had to get it off my chest. Now I promise I wont rant again about any of these items.

Brian H | 3 aprile 2013

Red Shift;
BMW will not be 'trouble' for TM. Remember the purpose of TM's existence is to inspire the wholesale widespread manufacture and adoption of EVs. It is not to be the exclusive or even (necessarily) leading provider. Just big enough to force the majors' hand.

RedShift | 3 aprile 2013

I want Tesla to survive and thrive. Not be upstaged by an entrenched player. TM is not here as a pure evangelist, it's a business. I like Tesla's chutzpah and upstart spirit. But does that have the longevity to last a really long time?

Hope their version 2.0 of the Model S outshines all luxury cars in every department.

RedShift | 3 aprile 2013

Also, Brian: every car is built to a budget. If they had taken some money off of the motorized door handles, may be made the 17" display a 15", they could have spent it on others.

A woman visiting us yesterday is a relative of the Tesla engineer responsible for the door handles.
It' seems there was some opposition to the motorized handles, but Elon pushed them through.

I have found them cool, yet, a bit gimmicky, and possibly another point of failure.

Brian H | 4 aprile 2013

One person's luxury touch is another person's gimmick.

Vawlkus | 4 aprile 2013

If BWM could have done it better, as you assert, why haven't they?

RedShift | 4 aprile 2013

Tesla did not make the Model S first. They made the roadster.

I am not saying BMW will make a car that will beat the MS. I conjectured that they might.

riceuguy | 4 aprile 2013

To clarify the caching issue, 3G is simply too slow to allow for practical map caching (hence why your phone needs to be on wi-fi for caching in Google Maps, though some phone manufactures have removed this restriction now). Once wi-fi is enabled, and the flash storage is enabled, Tesla says map caching will be available. It is not ideal, but the advantage of Google Maps is that it is always up to date, has satellite photos, etc. Most of the time it is great, but when you are out of range, you do still at least have the point to point directions in Navigon.

lov2krz | 4 aprile 2013


When my screen goes blank, as it did several times yesterday I don't have any method to input an address. There is no search box to type in information and when I do a voice command by giving street number, street name, city and state with zip code I have not every gotten the search to work (even with the Google Maps). I guess it doesn't like my voice.

The point I was making is that TM has complicated a feature that has been around for a while and works in cheap hand held GPS units.

I think the 3G stuff is cool but I have been checking traffic on my iPhone for several years and don't need it in the car (it's nice but not necessary). I do need GPS Navigation and don't have it.

DouglasR | 4 aprile 2013


That's odd. I seem to recall that when I have lost my 3G signal, the screen did not go blank, but rather I saw the icon showing the location of the car, but with a gray background -- i.e., no maps. Can anybody confirm?

shs | 4 aprile 2013

When out of cell coverage I have often seen a "map" that does show the road and the car moving on that road, but with a dark gray background for the other map details, or in this case, lack thereof. I don't think I was in navigation to a destination mode at that time, but I pretty much always have the navigation screen showing. Next time I see the gray background, I'll look and see if I have a destination entry field. Right now, at home, the Nav screen shows a map, the destination entry field and a history button, even though I don't have connectivity. Must have downloaded that map near here where there was connectivity.

RedShift | 4 aprile 2013

Douglas, I saw the car location by way of the red arrow marker on a completely black screen.

I will see if the destination is set, how both screens behave.