Connected cars aren't just the future, they're the present. That's a good thing when an over-the-air update gives your car extra battery range or even more power, but it can also be a bad thing. I'd argue the Tesla Cybertruck's locking differential that's "coming soon" counts as a bad thing.
The screengrab you see here shows the message the Cybertruck displays when you try locking the front or rear differential. Owner VoyageATX posted a video to YouTube where his high-dollar electric pickup struggles in the mud, losing out to a Subaru Crosstrek off-road. I'm not here to make fun of him, and I'm not even here to make fun of the truck. But we have to talk about this dystopian reality where a vehicle's promised features are far from guaranteed.
Of course, manufacturers have leaned on OTA updates for a while now. But it's poor procedure to roll out a model with missing functionalities and a promise that they'll be added in time. That's especially true when you've waited years for your rig like almost every Cybertruck owner has, "believing in the mission" and spending nearly six figures all the while.
A locking differential is one of the most fundamental off-road features. In short, it ensures that both wheels on an axle or drive unit are spinning at the same time. They help immensely with traction in slippery conditions, and the most hardcore four-wheelers offer them front and back. Dual-motor Cybertrucks will supposedly be that way, while tri-motor models only need one at the front since both rear wheels are independently powered.
Now, we know that Cybertruck mules have tested with locking differentials. The pickup's lead engineer Wes Morrill commented on a video posted to X (formerly Twitter) where the Cybertruck climbs a tricky hill, no problem. Morrill notes that three different trucks attempted the obstacle—one with fully disabled traction control and open differentials, another dual motor with front and rear lockers, and a tri-motor Cybertruck with a front locker. He argues the point that driver skill is the biggest difference-maker in off-road performance, and while that may be true, Cybertruck owners can't find out right now since their pickups' locking diffs are "coming soon."
A quick search shows one Cybertruck owner being met with the same message earlier in January. Cybertruck Owners Club members joked that maybe they could trade functionalities for locking diffs, like FM radio or seatbelt reminders. Another dismissed it and said, "This is typical and expected as an early adopter of brand new tech." (Yeah, OK.) Finally, someone addressed the elephant in the room: "Let's hope it's not a subscription feature."
There's been no word from Tesla saying locking differentials will be a subscription feature. As it seems, the functionality simply isn't ready for customer roll-out just yet. That doesn't make it acceptable, but it reinforces that this massively anticipated vehicle launch is being muddied by what should have been when customers first took delivery.
For the good of everybody, let's hope this doesn't continue. Otherwise, who knows what car companies will promise to get your money.
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