Tesla releases official API documentation to support third-party apps

Tesla has officially released its API documentation to support third-party apps – after years of operating in a gray zone with an unofficial API.

For now, it is geared toward fleet management, but developers are hoping it is a first step toward creating a healthy app ecosystem.

The automaker has talked on and off about releasing a software development kit (SDK) to create a full third-party app ecosystem operating with its vehicles, which have giant touchscreens and connectivity.

Tesla has since made an unofficial API that enables some very basic third-party apps, but it is mostly used for mobile and browser-based apps rather than being a full documented API.

In 2016, CEO Elon Musk said that they instead planned to move to app mirroring from phone to center console. This is similar to services like Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto, where the phone is responsible for displaying infotainment information on the car’s display.

CarPlay is another feature that many Tesla owners have demanded, but Tesla appears to have given that up, too, as it prefers to own the user experience inside its vehicles.

In the meantime, many Tesla drivers have still opted to use third-party apps that live in sort of a grey zone at the mercy of the unofficial API.

Earlier this summer, we saw that Tesla was taking steps to officially onboard third-party apps with a rumored official API coming.

The automaker has now officially released API documentation – marking an important step toward creating a healthier third-party app community.

So far, it still only covers the command that you can send to your car through the Tesla app, and it can ping the data from your car that goes to the app.

In short, it is going to make official all the third-party fleet management apps, smartwatch integration apps, etc.

In the documentation, Tesla writes that all third-party apps are going to have to go through the new API starting next year:

Following the release of Tesla Vehicle Command SDK support for REST API vehicle command endpoints is now reaching end of life. Starting 2024 most vehicles will require sending commands via Tesla Vehicle Command SDK.

Tesla put together a process to onboard those apps on its website. If you are using some of those apps, you will likely receive a notification to give them official authorization to access car data.

Electrek’s Take

The move has likely something to do with Tesla recently releasing new in-car fleet management and rental software with Hertz, which operates a giant fleet of Tesla rental cars.

It likely had to make access official through an API for the project, and now it is making it available to everyone.

That’s good news because there were a few thriving businesses that were created around making third-party apps for Tesla, but they operated in a grey zone making them a bit shaky. Now if those apps can operate with the official API, they will become legitimate businesses, and it could encourage more to come.

However, applications are still limited now because of what can be accessed to the API, but it might be a first step toward a broader Tesla “app store” ecosystem that could even eventually include in-car apps.