Report: New Tesla Model S Update Disables Air Suspension Lowering At Highway Speed (Update)

NOV 17 2013 BY JAY COLE 40

Tesla Active Air Suspension Low Setting Disabled At Highway Speed In New Update

Tesla Active Air Suspension Low Setting Disabled At Highway Speed In New Update

This weekend Tesla Model S owners are receiving notifications to update their Model S software from version 5.6 to version 5.8.  As part of that update comes the apparent disabling of any Active Air Suspension equipped vehicles to the LOW setting at highway speeds.  (At extreme speeds the car is still able to engage this setting)

Separately, there is also speculation (and some early evidence provided via owners) that the overall clearance of the car in the LOW setting has also been increased recently.  The consensus seems to be that Tesla has indeed reacted to the public’s reaction to Model S safety and that at lease one of these changes were intentional, if not both.

*Update:  It’s official.  Tesla CEO Elon Musk put out a blog post (here) on the subject of Model S safety.  Included in that post is an explanation of the air suspension update:

“First, we have rolled out an over-the-air update to the air suspension that will result in greater ground clearance at highway speeds. To be clear, this is about reducing the chances of underbody impact damage, not improving safety.”

Some are seeing this update as a Tesla reaction to a couple of recent fires (here and here) that occurred on highways involving road debris with Smart Air Suspension equipped cars.  While others believe it may just be a software bug or coding error that has caused an unintentional effect.

The change means that the car is no longer able to lower the almost 1″ extra at highway speed.  It should be noted at this point, there has been no official explanation by Tesla, we do not know if this situation is permanent – or even intentional at this point.

**UPDATE:  Tesla has confirmed Air Suspension cars can no longer mover into LOW at highway speed, but that functionality will return in an expanded from in the future.

“Another software update expected in January will give the driver direct control of the air suspension ride height transitions.”

Tesla's Website Explains The Active Air Suspension's Benefits Before The Update

Tesla’s Website Explains The Active Air Suspension’s Benefits Before The Update

Tesla Center Stack UI For Active Air Suspesion

Tesla Center Stack UI For Active Air Suspesion

In promoting the smart Active Air Suspension ($2,250 option), Tesla states the benefits of the option:

“As Model S accelerates, it lowers the vehicle for optimized aerodynamics and increased range.

Early response to the upgrade has been mixed.

Some current owners (and shareholders) are seeing this as a appropriate response to the recent incidents, and to the NHSTA who is currently deciding whether or not to investigate the Tesla Model S for undercarriage safety.

***Update:  The NHSTA has opened an investigation into recent fire events with the Model S (details here)

On the other side of the coin, some owners with the Air Suspension package are seeing red, feeling one of the features they paid extra for has been taken away.

Many owners are reporting the Model S has a different feel on the highway and does not handle as it did before, while also being concerned by how much this change could affect the range they are used to.

For more reaction and to participate in the ongoing discussion, we encourage you to also check out a very active thread on the topic at the Tesla Motors Club here.

Categories: Tesla


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40 Comments on "Report: New Tesla Model S Update Disables Air Suspension Lowering At Highway Speed (Update)"

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Seems prudent, given the circumstances…

Air suspension. “Now with more air.”


I assume that if one DOESN”T have active air, the vehicle never gets into the low configuration….

The standard is about .5″ higher than the standard on the active air suspension. The “low” setting with active air is actually about .8 low than “normal,” so you are looking at a difference of about 1.3″ in total.

Details here:
“2. Active Air Suspension – When should we expect more formal information to be published about the height settings available, and so forth. ”


No communication from Tesla, just a stealth change to eliminate a feature consumers paid extra for to solve a problem the company swears doesn’t exist.

I wonder if Musk will use Twitter to attack customers who complain about this situation.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

Sounds like something Sony would do.

That is NOT a compliment.

Seriously? Your laughing that they took a step for owner safety while it gets sorted out? Statistically obstacles or debris that are ~1″ less than the prior height (i.e. trailer hitch) will now go under the Model S w/Active Air Suspension, however the are various other sports cars that will hit those same ones with some serious damage.

CherylG just wants to see more Tesla fires… Trolls thrive on drama, real or otherwise.

Perhaps this a tempory measure while Tesla investigates potential risk to drivers going forward.

Expect that Tesla is also investigating forward looking radar (laser scanner) as part of automatous engineering, to watch road ahead for debris and sinkholes. Stuff does happen on the highway… that is almost impossible go avoid! eg: note oncoming lane, escaping from dust, a Model S driving over road debris as it bypasses incident.

“Readers should again note that this is a developing story and Tesla has yet to make a statement confirming or denying any reasons why this change was made.”
The suspension is killing me 🙂

not yet,
you don’t have an S.


This was the only logical solution for this issue.

I am sure the system is disabled completely and permanently while traveling at any speed.

Now this should put the Model S at a ‘normal height’ like other automobiles, which should resolve the debris/fire issue once and for all. With no actual ‘mechanical’ modifications to the battery pack.

I see Tesla making an announcement, and refunding what customers paid for the suspension lowering system. This keeps them out of hot water with safety regulators and investors.

I find it unfortunate how an impressively cool feature was killed off. This will definitely impact high-speed economy and would sure say something different to the EPA MPGe figures! Yet you are right! It’s either this or bulking up the under-pan, adding possibly 400lbs. Who knows, possibly that extra weight might be an extra hindrance on performance and efficiency than by not allowing a lower ride height.

I just hope this wouldn’t be set for too long, or hopefully a standard setting and the lowered setting as a manual option.

Not clear how much is saves in energy or gives in range. Slowing down is probably much much more dramatic. The Active Air Suspension is not entirely disabled. You can still raise it for steep driveways or snow or etc. And you can still lower it to more easily wash the top of the car, as an example.

no one should be complaining if i drive a fricking smart electric on the freeway

As I surmised earlier. The easy first step, although I hope Tesla doesn’t try to sell this to the public as the total solution.

Awesome that they would respond so quickly to the battery fires.

That’s the beauty of a pure EV.
Just fix it w/ a software update!

To be fair… this has nothing to do with the car being an EV. It simply has software-controlled air suspension, and can download software updates. “Any” car could do that too, without being an EV.

And that they could meaning with OTA / OTWiFi updates.

Crazy idea: how about making something like the front air dam be the lowest part of the car, not the battery?

What sort of air damn stops a hitch? The Volts as an example is flexible and only stops wind. Plus a front air damn my just push things to the front wheels causing them to blow out possibly in a dramatic fashion … vs a message to pull over and exit the vehicle.

How bowt both? If you can achieve similar ground-effects with an air-dam that is easily replaced when damaged,why not use it in combination with higher ground clearance…like other car manufactures?

Bright side for me is that I get a 5.x upgrade. Been waiting a while for it. Gotta believe the suspension of low at highway speeds is intentional, last minute, and not necessarily permanent. Musk did allude that this would be done.

I’m interested to see how my range will be affected by the higher suspension setting.

I smell a opportunity here …. Cyanogenmod for Tesla :).
Snark aside … how secure is the Tesla firmware … anybody peeked at it yet ???.

Great, now people will want to root their cars… No problems there…

They’ve had enough fires for this month. This is probably done to keep the stock price up and cause some ‘near misses’ instead of collisions. So maybe, while the electric usage will go up, a side benefit is that Collision Insurance will go down since statistically the S will hit fewer trailer hitches.

I have wondered how much of a difference the lowering actually makes. Aerodynamically speaking I believe it’s a disadvantage if air can’t flow on all sides so lowering should be worse unless of course the flow under the car is so messy that it’s better without.
Data would be nice.

There is plenty of data. Raising would improve aero a lot but the car would have to raised a lot, like many feet. Interference with the ground is the issue. That is why GM put so a low secondary air dam on the Volt, to move more air to the side. Lowering the whole vehicle also improves handling which improves safety in another respect. The only positive of the higher ride is the lower likelihood of striking road debris.

As the real world has shown, striking road debris seems to be more hazardous in a Model S than driving with the car an inch higher off the road. Tesla may have to rethink the air suspension option, in light of recent events. Apparently, lowering the car at highway speeds isn’t going to be a selling point from here on out.

A little too early to say what the permanent decisions will be.

Anybody else have a problem with somebody messing with my car via a software update?

Yes, I find it very doubtable to allow driving and safety related updates to come simple over the air, instead of require manual installation with hardware based memory write protection switch or ROM exchange at the car.

Tesla should compensate consumers if they disable an added-cost feature that was promoted to those consumers.

Safety advocates are already comparing the 3 fires with the Tesla 0 fires for the Leaf and 0 fires in consumer use for the Volt. The statistics don’t look good for Tesla an no amount of press release spin can change that.

On the bright side, this appears to be at least an unspoken acknowledgement that the Model S does indeed have a problem with a vulnerable battery placement combined with inadequate protection. You can’t solve a problem until you have acknowledged you have one.

I’m probably just confused, but the thinking here seems to be that less than an inch of clearance, at Speed, could have saved the two Tesla drivers from what they ran over, is that correct?

Does that translate to less than an inch of penetration caused the catastrophic failure and fire?
IMHO, the ‘low’ setting disabled had little to do with drivers attempting to run over large items on the highway, but time will tell..