Tesla adds new Passive Authentication feature to mobile app

Tesla has quietly added a new feature to its mobile app, and while at first glance it doesn’t appear to be very helpful it actually provides an extra layer of security for owners.

Earlier this week Tesla released an update to their mobile app on the iOS App Store, version 4.20.75. While the release notes only mentioned “minor fixes and improvements,” there was actually a new feature added called Passive Authentication.

Found under the ‘Security and Drivers’ menu, the feature changes how you lock and unlock and drive your car. When the feature is toggled on, your phone continues to act as a key for your vehicle, allowing you to walk up and drive away in your car without having to pull out a key. Toggle it off and your phone is no longer a mobile key, with your vehicle requiring a key card to lock/unlock and to shift into Drive.

Now you might be asking yourself why are you calling this a safety feature? That’s because one of the potential flaws of using your phone as a mobile key is the effective range of Bluetooth. When your phone is a mobile key the car will lock once it no longer detects the Bluetooth signal from your car. With a range of up to 33 feet (10m), you might unknowingly keep your car unlocked even though you have walked away.

You might now be asking why don’t you just turn off Bluetooth then, since that accomplishes the same thing? Not everyone wants to turn off Bluetooth as the feature is used for other things. One use case, as noted by one of our readers Dan Burkland, is that he will now be able to continue using his Bluetooth headphones but disable the mobile key as he usually stays within Bluetooth range when visiting his gym.

Tesla could make the feature better however by adding the ability to turn off passive authentication with geofences, similar to how they allow folding mirrors based on location, so that you don’t have to manually turn it on and off every time.

Will you be using this feature? Let us know in the comments below.

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