Part 8 of the Electric Car saga.
Polestar’s software is a work in progress. The one running on the car looks generally good, and is stable in general use, but has issues and annoyances lurking under the surface.
Just to be very clear, I love driving the car, and it’s fun. So before we get into the problems and issues, a few cool pictures.
So, what’s wrong? I’ll start with the web services that power the company/some of the car’s features, and work ‘inwards’ from there.
The Polestar connected services are mostly lousy. Herr Karlsson, my fictitious Swedish bureaucrat, is probably a bunch of batch processes running daily on servers somewhere. Things take 24-36 hours.
For example: you’re supposed to be able to use your phone as a key. For that, you have to have the phone paired with the car; not paired over Bluetooth, which is a process that the Android Automotive layer handles gracefully, but paired as in ‘registering with Polestar that phone and car both belong to you.’
Since I had paired my phone with the car this way, but the Digital Key (the name of the feature) never showed up, I decide to do the traditional IT dance: reset things and try again.
So I un-paired the phone from the car. Then I went to pair them again… and I couldn’t.
The phone app just wouldn’t let me login. Somewhere, in the bowels of a Polestar database, that phone was probably already tied to a Polestar account.
Twenty-four hours later, I could do it. A batch process ran overnight somewhere, and the ‘phones that are taken’ database had mine removed. This can, and should, be done instantaneously, but Herr Karlsson says nö.
Once I had the option, though, getting the car and the phone to talk to each became A Quest. I spent hours staring at these two screens on the car and phone respectively.
This Did. Not. Work. No matter what I did – reinstall accounts, turn things on and off again, etc, they just wouldn’t talk to each other. Then I read on a Polestar forum that sometimes the Bluetooth system process’ cache on the car keeps information about the phone; a trip into the bowels of Android emptied that cache. No dice.
Then I read somewhere on Reddit that the radios in the car (TCAM, by its initials) sometimes crashed, and there was a magical series of keypresses needed to reboot them. Lo and behold, the magical keypresses rebooted the TCAM, and the car and the phone found each other. Paired!
Then, another spinner that said “Activating Digital Key…” and took forever. It was supposed to take up to two minutes; after ten I called it quits. I can use the keyfob just fine. Over the next couple of days, I tried again to get the car and the phone to take their digital relationship to the next level, but it just wouldn’t. I turned radios on and off, I rebooted the TCAM… nothing. I assume it will get fixed in a software update down the line.
Then, last night, I left the car charging.
This morning, the radios were dead. All of them, except Bluetooth. No GPS. No WiFi. No LTE. I tried rebooting the infotainment, TCAM, etc. Nothing.
When I called Polestar, the support representative seemed reasonably concerned; he said that, if it doesn’t ‘heal’ by itself in two days they’ll send a tech out to see it. The last part, at least, I’m grateful for. The closest dealership is 160 Freedom Distances (~260 Kommunistometers) away.
The tech mentioned something about a battery in the radio itself needing to charge. Considering the car IS mostly a battery, this seems nonsensical and a potential point of failure. Still, maybe it’ll heal. Other things have.
What IS it with the car healing stuff by itself every 24-36 hours? Reboot timers, batch jobs, and watchdog processes is my guess. But it is annoying.
At this point, I love driving the car, but I’m slightly alarmed at the issues. The radio hardware in my car seems, to me, to be fried. I have no faith in it being able to recover from this, but I hope I’m wrong. The Internet suggests resetting everything by disconnecting the 12V battery for a while, but it’s hard to reach and the car has only 290 miles on it. I am not going to start removing trim just yet.
The software is ok (Android), buggy (the car’s firmware), or barely-functional (web services).
For now, the worst-case scenario is that a tech will come at some point and replace the radio hardware. In the meantime, I get to stare at North America on the dash.
Finally, I get that it has Volvo heritage, but it is a little high-strung on the safety thing. There is a Very Small step at the entrance to my garage. Seriously, it’s about 2 cm (3/4″).
The car thinks this is a wall or an actual obstacle of some kind. And since you’re about to crash into it…
It’s disconcerting, and jarring, and it’s happened twice already. At this point I remember to turn off the auto-stop every time I back into my garage. Fortunately, there’s a convenient button for it.
I knew I was in for an adventure with a car from a new company; hey, it gives me something to write about!