As the most connected car on the road today, the Tesla Model S is essentially a very expensive, smart computer with a super-fast electric car built around it. In addition to having that massive 17-inch touch screen forming its centre console, each Tesla Model S has an always-on Internet connection, allowing Tesla and Tesla owners to remotely monitor and control the car, doing everything from setting the climate control and unlocking the doors remotely to pinpointing the car’s location on a map and updating the car’s operating system to add new features — all without visiting a Tesla Service Centre.
It’s no surprise then that the number of apps available to allow Tesla owners to connect to their car is slowly growing beyond Tesla’s official iPhone and Android apps for Model S owners. So far, we’ve seen a Google Glass app, an app for your Pebble watch, a way of integrating the Tesla Model S with your Nest thermostat, and yes — as we told you yesterday — even voice-activated control using the latest version of Rego App’s Remote S app for Apple Watch.
Now, it’s the turn of desktop or laptop computer, thanks to a Java-based, open-source app called Visible Tesla.
As the MIT Technology Review (via Insideevs) explains, Visible Tesla is an open-source project originally written by Tesla Model S owner and database engineer Joe Pasqua that anyone with the necessary coding experience can contribute to over at github. Making use of another open-source project called TeslaClient, the Java-based app hooks into the same communications protocol used for Tesla’s official iOS app — which Pasqua and many other Tesla fans have reverse-engineered to enable them to communicate with Tesla via their own apps.
Available with preconfigured binaries (programs) for OS X and Windows users, the app duplicates much of the functionality of Tesla’s official iOS and Android apps. You can open and close the car’s trunk, unlock the doors, and operate the sunroof, as well as set climate control, start a charging session and of course, check where the car is on a map.
But there’s some added functionality too. As well as making it possible to download data pertaining to your car’s charging and use cycles — something that Pasqua and many other Model S owners do regularly to compare notes on vehicle performance and battery health on the Tesla Motors Club Forum, the Visible Tesla app’s open-source design means that it’s possible to add extra scripts or functionality.
Pasqua, for example, has added a geofencing feature to his own system, sending him a text message if he goes to the grocery store to remind him to retrieve his shopping bags from the trunk before heading inside. In fact, the possibilities of this open-source app are limited only by the skills and imagination of the software engineers and hobbyists contributing to the project.
While it’s worth noting that the project isn’t officially supported by Tesla, the Californian automaker hasn’t strongly reacted to the work that Pasqua and his fellow enthusiasts are doing. Even on one occasion when he accidentally flooded Tesla’s server with requests, Pasqua wasn’t given a tough time.
“They didn’t send me a nastygram,” he explained. “They sent me an e-mail saying, ‘Hey, [we] don’t know what’s going on, but you just hit us 1,000 times a second — we had to turn you off.’ Of course I apologised profusely. They were cool about it. They could’ve easily shut it down, and they haven’t done that.”
One day, Tesla may change its mind on the subject of enthusiast programmers and raise the virtual drawbridge. On the other hand, it could also offer a software development kit to help enthusiasts develop great apps for its plug-in cars. At the time of writing, there’s no hint of the former, and Tesla says it hasn’t ruled out the latter.
Right now, however, the automaker has other things to keep it occupied.
“Our focus is challenging the in-house team who truly understands both our product and its potential to create and deliver a stellar owner experience,” Tesla’s Khobi Brooklyn told MIT Review in an email.
In other words, Tesla is aware of the apps, but doesn’t see them as a threat, thanks in part we presume to Tesla’s proactive attitude to security.
As for the app itself? You can find more at the VisibleTesla website, or contribute to its development at Github.
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