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  • Frederick Dopfel

Connecting the Tesla to Public Wi-Fi


As a new Tesla owner, I am always excited about getting the latest software update (at time of writing, anxiously awaiting version 9.0), and the best way to ensure the update arrives without major delays is to provide your car with an internet connection (preferably Wi-Fi) 24/7.

Unfortunately, the garage of my apartment building does not have good cell reception, and my apartment on the top floor is well out of Wi-Fi range. This leaves me with two options:

  • Get the update a few days later and just deal with it like a normal person

  • Engineer something ridiculous to get the update as fast as possible

Since you are reading this, you can guess which route I ended up taking

My first idea was to daisy chain a bunch of Plume mesh routing pods from my apartment upstairs through the stairwells to the garage. However, availability of public power outlets, the ease of other tenants to mess with the pods, and the cost of the extra equipment led me to discard this idea. Instead, upon realizing that one of the first floor neighbors had an open xfinitywifi hotspot, I decided to take another path: connect my car to the xfinitywifi hotspot network.

A few years ago, Comcast patched their router / modem combos to broadcast an open "xfinitywifi" hotspot from every subscriber's home, in addition to the subscriber's home network. This created a massive network of hotspots that any Comcast subscriber could connect to for free, so long as they can get through a login screen. Unfortunately, the Model 3 did not yet have a web browser, and could not get through the login screen. The one glimmer of hope, however, was that Comcast uses a device's MAC address (a unique code tied to the hardware of a device's Wi-Fi antenna) to identify devices that have signed in previously. If I could only get Comcast to approve of my Tesla's MAC address, I could connect anywhere for free.

Fortunately, Apple Computers have the capability to temporarily spoof a MAC address with a terminal command:

sudo ifconfig en0 ether 00:00:00:00:00:00

[where 00:00:00:00:00:00 is the Mac address you wish to spoof]. The Tesla's MAC address is readily accessible from the Wi-Fi settings page.

So all that was left was to turn on my Macbook, spoof the Tesla's MAC address, connect to "xfinitywifi", login with my account, then disconnect from "xfinitywifi", and revert the MAC address (on a Mac, simply restarting reverts to the device's true MAC address). Going back to the garage, I told my Tesla to connect to "xfinitywifi" and...

Success!!!

I tested the connection by streaming internet radio, through its Wi-Fi connection, which also worked. Now I have a working Wi-Fi connection almost anywhere I park in the city, including in garages where cellular signals can't penetrate.

To any other Wi-Fi-less Tesla owners out there: There is hope!


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*The banner background was generated from my personal photo of one of my favorite places, Stinson Beach. For more information on how I generated the painting, see DeepStyle on the Recent Projects Tab

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