As The Verge is reporting today, when Tesla announced a redesigned Model S sedan and Model X SUV earlier this year, Tesla decided to remove the gear-selector stalk from the steering wheel and is going to try to automate shifting between park, reverse, neutral, and drive (PRND). The company said there would be an option on the touchscreen as a backup, but it wasn’t until today that we had a sense of exactly what that looks like.
Instead of touchscreen “buttons” for each drive mode, drivers will have to tap-and-drag on a small car icon on the top-left corner of the new horizontal touchscreen. (In fact, that car icon was visible in the photos Tesla released for the refreshed Model S and Model X, though it wasn’t clear what it was for.) Drag up to put the car into drive, drag down to put the car in reverse.
I will say as a longtime Tesla owner (both an S and a 3) this looks like another bad Tesla touchscreen idea.
The touchscreens have always been hard to use–worse in the 3. They make you carsick trying to land in the right touch points. Already functions like windshield wipers have been unfortunately moved onto the touchscreen, at a cost to safety just because it’s so hard to reach/use the touchscreen while in motion–I’d rather use my phone to control the car than lean awkwardly over trying to connect with that magic point on the touchscreen and reading it sideways.
I love my Teslas but more Tesla touchscreen is for me a move in the wrong direction. If you need something in a hurry, forget it. And it does seem like you would want gears on demand with an analog function, not hunting around a touchscreen for them–like I have to do for the windshield wipers.
You can see how this works below.
— Michael Hsu (@hsumacher) March 24, 2021
Neutral is buried in a deeper menu, though it’s still unclear how you put the car into park. Nightmare!
According to Elon Musk, this is all just a backup to the car automatically switching gears for you. “Car guesses drive direction based on what obstacles it sees, context & nav map,” Musk tweeted back in January. “After you drive without using a PRND stalk/stick for a few days, it gets very annoying to go back & use a shifter! You can override on touchscreen.”
So… Elon is bringing the same mythology to this as he did to his autopilot. I’ve used many an autopilot; my Tesla autopilot is crap at guessing. Elon is a genius but when it comes to touchscreen GUI he might want to work with an AV pro.