A pair of Canadian Tesla owners accidentally climbed into the wrong cars before their apps allowed them to drive away in lookalike vehicles, they said Tuesday.
Rajesh Randev, 51, an immigration consultant from Vancouver, used his app to get in his 2021 Tesla Model 3 — or so he thought — about 2:30 p.m. March 7 and went to pick up his two children from school, he said.
Minutes into the journey, Randev was alarmed to see a crack in the windshield and discover his phone-charging cable was missing.
"I called my wife, 'What happened to the windshield?' " Randev said. "Then it was 'Where did my cable go?'"
Shortly after Randev left, Mahmoud Esaeyh, 32, an Uber driver, used his app to get into what he believed was his white 2020 Tesla Model 3 and motored a block before he realized what had happened.
"It was the only white Tesla on the block, and the car opened. But when I drove away, I noticed that something was different about the car," Esaeyh said. "There was stuff inside that wasn't mine. I have a crack in the windshield that wasn't there."
Esaeyh was quick to return to the original parking spot and call police, fearing he'd be accused of stealing the Tesla.
"Maybe someone calls the cops — 'Hey my car is stolen' — and I'd get in big trouble," he said.
"Or what would have happened had he taken my car and committed a crime or stole something? That car would have all my information."
Fortunately, Esaeyh spotted medical records and a prescription with Randev's cellphone number in the car, allowing them to connect.
But the contact wasn't instantaneous.
Randev ignored multiple phone calls from a name and number he didn't recognize.
Then the strange experience became even more confusing when Randev got a text message: “Do you drive a Tesla?”
"I thought maybe some client saw me or maybe some old friend or whatever maybe someone recognized me [driving by] and texted me?" Randev said.
Randev didn't put it all together until the texter spelled it out: “I think you [are] driving the wrong car."
Randev said he pulled over into an alley, saw that the tire rims were not off his car and realized that he had mistaken his white Model 3 for the white Model 3 owned by the man on the other end of the line.
“I was totally surprised,” Randev said. “I mean, how was this possible? How was I able to gain access and drive?”
Randev picked up his children and returned to the scene of the non-crime, where all parties shared a laugh and some concerns.
"They [the children] were laughing together. I mean, my kids are young people, so they love computers and stuff like that, and they were laughing," he said.
"But then on the other side, they were kind of scared, too, you know, like how was this possible?"
Esaeyh said his car is everything to him as an Uber driver.
"It's my only income," he said. "That's how I make money and pay for my rent."
Both men said they appreciated how the other handled the situation. Although both said they called Vancouver police, no formal report was logged.
"A crime did not occur in this case. It was simply a mistake," a Vancouver police spokesperson said.
The Vancouver snafu marks the latest oddity involving the high-end car line that includes elements of driverless technology.
- A Tesla driver was killed and a passenger was critically injured Feb. 18 when the car plowed into a fire truck parked on a Northern California freeway to shield a crew clearing another accident, authorities said. It wasn't immediately clear whether the driver may have been intoxicated or whether the Tesla Model S was operating with automation or driving assistance features.
- Limousine driver Kevin George Aziz Riad was driving his Tesla Model S on autopilot in California in late 2019 when he ran a red light and smashed into a Honda Civic, killing Gilberto Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez, officials said. The driver was charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence; the trial in Compton is pending.
- Regulators disclosed this month that they've opened an investigation into Tesla’s Model Y SUV after they received complaints that the steering wheels can come off while the cars are being driven.
A representative for Tesla’s investor relations department could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Randev said he has been trying to reach Tesla since the incident. And other than one email from a local Tesla dealer asking for his phone number, there has been no response, he said.