Ryan Negri, an angel investor and Tesla owner based in Las Vegas, decided to go for a drive through Red Rock Canyon yesterday to take “some photos of the freshly-fallen snow,” according to a photo caption he posted on Instagram. He unlocked and also started his car using his phone — a handy, somewhat delightful and futuristic-seeming feature — and left the key behind.
As Negri discovered after getting out of the car, it turns out there is no cell reception in a canyon in the middle of the desert — and that the Tesla needs a network connection to use the smartphone-unlocking feature.
Stranded 6 miles from home, 2 miles from cell service; our Saturday morning. The thought was to go for a quick drive to take some photos of the freshly-fallen mountain snow. Having only my phone in my pocket, I unlocked and started the car with it, and we left. 6 miles down the road we decided to turn back, but before that, had to adjust Mozy & Millie's car bed, so I exited the vehicle...bad idea. Need to restart the car now, but, with no cell service, my phone can't connect to the car to unlock it. Even with cell service, the car would also need cell service to receive the signal to unlock. @amymnegri, the hero she is, started running to reach cell service height. After about 2 miles she reached signal and called a friend for a ride to the house to grab the key fob. The key that will always be with me (now) when I drive that car.
His wife Amy ran about two miles, according to Negri’s Instagram post, to try to get cell service. She was finally able to call someone to pick her up and get the key from the house.
While it’s nice to imagine a future where a phone can replace your entire wallet and keychain, we’re not there yet. For now, smartphone-based keyless entry seems more of a handy backup than an always-reliable primary unlocking technique. (In most cases, Tesla also can remotely unlock your car for you. But when there’s no key and no cell service, there’s little the company can do.)
In the end, Negri concluded that he won’t be leaving his house without the key any longer.
So, a handy reminder for Tesla owners — or owners of any car, for that matter: Don’t forget your keys.
That said, as a few people pointed out on Twitter, it’s not unexpected that people would think to leave their keys behind when driving a car that starts without them. Negri also proposed that there should be some sort of offline “contingency plan,” such as a password. (Using a local Bluetooth or Wi-Fi authentication system, which doesn’t rely on constant network access, is another possible solution, though perhaps susceptible to hacking.)
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.