Cars First World Problems

Oops, I did it again

As the prophet Britney Spears once said: Oops, I did it again.

And by “I,” I mean in this case the car.

Oops, it did it again

And by “did it again,” I mean in this case lost all communications with the outside world.

Let’s be frank here: communications with the outside world, on-board maps and routing, and Internet access in general, have never been a need on a car. It drives just fine. Sure, you have to open the door with a metal key (the horror!) and locking it is somewhat awkward, due to the lock’s placement. But it does car things just fine.

However, one doesn’t really get a car with all these bells and whistles to then ignore the bells. Or the whistles. I bought a computer that happens to have wheels, so the bells and whistles are integral parts of the experience. So I called Polestar, and a couple of days later…

On the way to Austin. Again.

It went to Austin on Thursday, and it’s still there today (Monday) as of this writing. Unless someone went to the trouble of finding and removing the AirTag in the car.

According to the technician, when I first called, he had never seen a Polestar with the latest software update do this. When we talked today, he said he had several. The latest update (2.0) has a firmware that doesn’t agree with the car, and I might have been Patient Zero on identifying this specific condition.

You might wonder how this can happen to a company with the resources of Volvo and/or Geely behind it. You know they test this software extensively, before inflicting it on people’s cars at home overnight.

I heard a very plausible explanation.

Remember the chip shortage? Some companies postpone features, or don’t deliver them. Or maybe they promise to install the missing ones later. Polestar is now removing features, but last year, quietly, it took a different path. It used whatever chips it could get its hands on that would do the job. That means that there are different versions of the hardware, on otherwise identical cars, but they’re all getting the same software. Not all hardware, alas, is created equal. So some fail spectacularly, while most work just fine.

I’m told the car is currently plugged into Volvo’s computers, the Polestar engineers are looking for the fault on this specific car through the logs, and they’ll write a patch and deliver it specifically to my car. Hopefully, it will help other cars like it.

In the end I’m not even mad. I couldn’t have the car if they didn’t build it because a chip was missing. I work from home, so it’s a mild inconvenience, not a deal breaker. And, despite the frustration, I have to say that the service itself is pretty good. Yes, they took a couple of days to come pick up the car… but they sent someone to pick up a car 160 miles away, for the second time! They’ve been communicative. They’re taking the problem seriously. The Polestar tech in Austin calls me with updates. They offered me a rental.

They forgot to follow through on the rental, but I haven’t needed it, so I let it slide. I am, overall, grateful. And my original assessment that I was going on an adventure turned out to be true.

I would absolutely, 100% buy it again, knowing all this. The car is great. The problem’s a fluke, and bad luck. As a person who writes software, and has delivered his share of malfunctioning stuff, I sympathize. A lot.

It will take a few more days to get back, but hey… how many people can say their car’s running custom bespoke software written specifically for that particular unit? Not even Rolls Royce owners!