Less than a week after Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated it wouldn’t be issuing an official recall notice in the light of three separate post-collision fires involving its Model S luxury sedan, Tesla has quietly pushed a software update which disables feature which automatically lowers the Model S’ suspension at motorway and highway speeds.
As Inside EVs reports, the software which upgrades operating system of Tesla Model S cars from version 5.6 to version 5.8, includes an update to the Active Air Suspension system which prevents the suspension from automatically lowering to its lowest setting at highway speeds.
Available as a $2,250 option in the U.S. (£1,900 in the UK) the Active Air Suspension makes it possible to manually raise or lower the Model S’ suspension from its touch-screen centre console, or to automatically lower the car at speed, hunkering it down for improved handling, aerodynamics and efficiency at higher speeds.
To help you understand how it works, here’s an owner YouTube video showing the Active Air Suspension in action:
At its lowest setting, the Active Air Suspension gives the Model S a sporty, performance-car edge. At its highest setting, it looks ready to tackle the roughest of roads. But while the lowered Model S helps its handling and efficiency at higher speeds, it also brings the car’s battery pack closer to the road.
Since two of the three Tesla Model S fires occured after stray debris on the road struck and penetrated the heavy plating on the bottom of a Model S traveling at speed along the road, puncturing the battery pack and starting an electrical short, we suspect the software update is designed to reduce the risk of catastrophic battery pack damage when hitting freeway debris.
At lower speeds — and speeds well beyond the legal limit for most countries — it’s still possible to activate the lowest air suspension setting for Model S cars equipped with the option. However, some owners report that since the update, their car’s lowest setting is actually half an inch higher under version 5.8 than it was under version 5.6.
At the time of writing Tesla has yet made an official statement regarding the software update or its reasons for disabling the lowest suspension setting at speed. While some owners appear frustrated that Tesla’s latest software update has taken away a feature they paid extra for, most Model S owners are relived that Tesla has taken this step to presumably reduce the risk of their cars being damaged after hitting road debris at high speed.
As with any developing story, we’ll bring you more as we find the reasons behind this update, but you’ve got to admit: don’t you want a car which can do a safety-related update without visiting the dealer? We do.
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