Discovering the Tesla API, to control and monitor your car remotely

Tesla has long been the only manufacturer to install a huge touch screen in its cars. Historical competition ended up gradually joining it and even overtaking it in a few cases, like the Mercedes Hyperscreen which combines three screens behind a huge slab of glass. If there is one point that still distinguishes the American company, however, it is connectivity and in particular communication with the vehicle.

With its 15-inch central screen, the Model 3 is no longer as much of an exception as when it was launched a few years ago (image MacGeneration).

To control the vehicle remotely and to collect data about the car and its usage, Tesla uses a very comprehensive API that customers can leverage, although it is not officially supported. When we say that a Tesla is first and foremost a computer on wheels, it’s not so much for its screen but much more for this logic inspired by the world of computing.

How does this API work and especially what can it be used for? Follow the leader !

An unofficial, but complete and reliable API

To begin with, what is an API (Application Programming Interface in English, which can be translated by application programming interface)? If we open the Wikipedia file, we find this definition: a standardized set of classes, methods, functions, and constants that serves as the facade through which software offers services to other software. Creating an API is common in development when you want to use functions in multiple contexts. To give an example, MacGeneration uses an API that is used both in our mobile apps and on the Club iGen website.

Tesla has created an API for its internal needs, in particular for its mobile app. As I detailed in an article in the series on the Model 3, this app offers many functions to monitor and control the car remotely. To retrieve information from its servers and to send commands from the app to the car via these same servers, the manufacturer has developed an API. It is it that is used by its own developers to create the two mobile apps (iOS and Android), but also for other internal needs, for example to carry out remote diagnostics.

Tesla’s mobile app is the first user of the in-house API. All the information sent from the car, such as its position or the interior temperature (left) and all the commands to manage the closing of the doors (right), go through this API.

This API is not public, in the sense that it is intended for internal use only. Concretely, this means that Tesla does not document the operation of its API and does not guarantee anything: overnight, its mode of operation can change completely and the manufacturer will not notify anyone outside its walls. That’s why it’s called unofficial and unofficial API, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful for third-party developers.


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