Update: Tesla has informed The Drive that any features listed on the Model 3 website—which includes FM radio and Bluetooth media streaming—not yet available on the vehicle will be activated soon via an over-the-air update.
New Tesla Model 3 owners may be in for a surprise when they get their hands on their cars. As of now, they won't be able to play music of their own via USB or Bluetooth, or even listen to the radio—a feature that's become standard as built-in technology even in lower-priced models made by other automakers. Over the last 65 years, carmakers have added factory options that allow drivers to play 8-track tapes, cassettes, CDs, and music via USB, satellite radio, and Bluetooth. Tesla, however, appears to have completely gutting its newest family member of access to all but one type of audio—at least for now.
After the first Model 3 was delivered in Texas, a select set of wording by a Tesla employee triggered a series of questions about just how audio could be played through the Model 3. We reached out to Tesla through the 1-800 number available to consumers on Monday, and a Model 3 pre-sales rep confirmed a few details regarding how drivers will be able to entertain themselves with music while on a drive.
The Model 3 has four USB ports included with the premium package, but the driver can't stream audio from a flash drive, nor from plugging in a phone or audio player. AM/FM radio is no longer included, removing the possibility to listen to local radio stations. The Model 3 also does not come equipped with a CD player, removing the last post-modern way to listen to any form of physical media. Bluetooth is enabled on the vehicle, but currently only for making and receiving phone calls. Audio streaming profiles are not currently available through the car's central media player, and the pre-sales rep was unable to confirm if or when it would be made available to the Model 3.
Tesla does allow drivers to play music using both free and paid subscriptions to Slacker Radio. The latter can cost upwards of $10 per month, which, though not a hefty price tag, may come as an upset to subscribers of other music services such as Spotify, a service that's not available to use is a Tesla vehicle purchased in the North America. Since this service streams over a cellular data connection, coverage might not always be available in more rural or highly congested areas, however. And notably, Slacker only has about a quarter of the library size of Spotify. Additionally, this opens the question of what happens when Tesla's four years of free cellular service expires. Will owners eventually need to pay for cellular connectivity as well?
All being said, this leaves owners with no current functionality to play their own music outside of the Slacker Radio app. This likely won't be a dealbreaker for potential owners, but for someone who uses their car for longer commutes, or is simply dedicated to a particular streaming service, it might be a minor upset. If Tesla wants to take on the BMW 3 Series, they may want to reconsider limiting the features which some might call rudimentary. Hopefully, Tesla will enable the streaming profile on the device in the near future, otherwise, Tesla might start to hear complaints from owners as they near their production goals.