Cars First World Problems


The car took a trip to Austin without me.

Yes, I also got a vanity plate with my decades-old nickname/preferred handle.

The reason? The TCAM, which is Polestar-speak for “the radios”.

See that SOS button? It’s supposed to be lit.

A few days before that, I upgraded the car over-the-air to Polestar’s 2.0 software, based on Android 11. Android 11 is over a year old; Google released 12 and is working on 13 now, but in Android Automotive-land, and especially in Polestar’s corner of it, 11 is brand-spanking new.

Everything went well with the upgrade, which is kind of expected. A few days after the upgrade, I plugged the car in to charge. And the next day, in the afternoon, the radios were dead. No SOS; no LTE; and, more annoyingly, the car wouldn’t acknowledge the keyfob. I couldn’t open the doors pressing buttons on the remote control, or get the car to acknowledge that I was standing next to it.

The keyfob actually contains a physical key for emergencies, and there’s a hidden physical lock in the driver’s door. So I grabbed the key, and opened the car. This always triggers the alarm, which is ear-splittingly loud. So although it worked in an emergency, it isn’t something you want to do regularly. There’s no physical ignition, but the car has a backup/redundant key sensor in a cup holder, so you put the key there and the car will still acknowledge it.

With this, I could open the doors (with an alarm every time) and drive. No GPS, which is annoying but non-critical, and no emergency services.

Strangely, Bluetooth worked, so I could play music. This must be a separate radio from the (also Bluetooth) one the car uses to recognize keys, because that one was completely, utterly dead. But audio worked.

You also get to dismiss this alert every time.

eCall Service required. I know what it means but it isn’t very grammatical.

I called Polestar, and after a couple days of back and forth, I was able to talk to a tech in Austin. The tech said that he’d need to see the car, so Polestar arranged for a tow truck to come pick it up and drop it off at the dealer.

According to the technician, the Polestar 2.0 software update contained new firmware for the TCAM, but the firmware update failed. The TCAM was stuck in programming mode. There’s no way for an end user to break this particular loop, so to Austin it had to go.

It took a day for them to diagnose and ‘treat’ the problem, and then another for the tow truck to pick up the car, and then the next day I had it back.

The triumphant return.

The tow truck driver told me I was his second Polestar drop-off of the day, and he had to go back to Austin to pick up two more.

I imagine they’ll eventually open a Polestar Space in Houston.

All in all, the radios/TCAM were flaky from the start. I would feel better if the module was replaced, but it is 100% a “feels” thing. Ever since I got it back it’s been working fine, and I have no evidence that it needs replacement.

Although it took a bit more work on my part than I would’ve liked, I’m happy with the service. Everyone involved was professional and things happened pretty quickly.

The car is very, very nice to drive, and I still can’t believe I get to charge it at home. It still feels like I’m getting away with something.

Bonus: As I was riding around in a Lyft, because my car was in Austin, I happened to see this one next to me.


No, it wasn’t Elon driving a Model 3 around Houston. Just a random fan, I guess. I don’t know the name of the Polestar CEO, and I quite like it that way.