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Dashboard touchscreen

What are your views on the decision to go for a massive touchscreen on the dashboard? I think that Tesla could have gone with something less flashy and still maintain the great aesthetic that they've achieved with the design of the model S.

What I mean is, having a big pane of glass slap bang in the centre of the dashboard kinda makes the whole thing look less interesting than it could. I'm not saying that dashboards should be filled with dozens of buttons - and there are cars out there with really ugly dashboards - but would having a few "real" buttons with good design really make the car any less appealing? I think it would make it look even more stylish.

And then there are a few real issues that need clarifying like daytime visibility and night glare; personally I like driving at night with the dashboard button LEDs lit up as they make the cabin a bit more cosy and they are not at all intrusive. If the touchscreen will be as bright as my LCD monitor then it will not make for a very relaxing driving experience.

Lastly, it would be interesting for Tesla to explore tactile feedback on the screen as it would help bridge the gap between "feel" and function. I think Nokia built a prototype a few years ago.

I like the fact that the touch screen can be updated and personalized.

I am sure the Tesla engineers will find out a way to make sure that the interior doesn't light up like a light house at night.

Touch screen can be good, if you can shut it off and control your gizmos from steering wheel at night. Something like controlling CD/radio/whatever volume is best done by simple knob that doesn't require looking what you are doing.

Previous information from Tesla about the screen is that it will be tactile; that was the plan all along.
Secondly, every screen I have seen in a car has a night mode and a day mode... The night mode is usually in blacks and dark colors, so it doesn't grab your focus from the road. Being ADD, the last thing I need is a bright screen. I feel sure they know all about that aspect.

Yes, that screen will be tactile, but it doesn't help you one single bit for not needing to look at it. There is no touch feedback. You don't know where your hand is. And because that will have multiple modes without looking I don't know if I'm tuning volume of the radio or the changing from performance mode to standard mode, or pointing at the GPS map or telling the machine to detonate an hidden nuclear device or what.

Looking at anywhere else than road is a safety hazard. You need to have those controls somewhere else. Preferably in place you don't need to use your conscious brains at all after a while and controlling becomes an instinct.

Hmm... Timo brings up a good point that all touch screens (including iPhones!) suffer from the problem that we have to look at what we are doing because there is no physical feedback. However, as far as the lighting conditions are concerned, I'd think the bigger challenge is the display during the day rather than at night.

I personally like having some physical knobs for the functions that I use most often. But then again, I wouldn't mind having a copy of the most important controls on the steering wheel and let the dashboard be a complete touchscreen.

A solution to solving the problem with touch screens could be to use gestures (YES!) and multi-finger swipes and touches. Here's how this would work:

1. The weight sensor the bucket seats figures out if there is a driver + passenger or just driver.
2. If just driver, then gesture/swipe controls are automatically activated. The normal controls still exist just the same, and all the buttons are still displayed on the screen. However, now, gestures and swipes are allowed anywhere on the screen.
3. Since there will be a set of controls for music and volume on the steering wheel, these don't need to be part of the gestures.

Another GREAT idea, would be to use an iPad instead of their own display. Work with Apple to integrate the hardware of the iPad, remove unnecessary components, and build apps on the iPad that does all the controls for the car like heating/cooling etc. Now that would be awesome!

Using the 3G network and adding a GPS feature to the iPad, and taking advantage of the iPad's brilliant screen and gesture recognition technology will save the Tesla engineers a lot of time, hardware design, and money at the same time come up with a great looking solution. And with further iterations of the iPad, this can get better as it goes, without Tesla having to do the research themselves as well as being able to re-use the apps they wrote for Model S, for say, the Model X or whatever else is their next car.

How's that?

Gentlemen! Even the Ford Focus has Voice Recognition Technology (reference link: ) and I think/hope that this would be something in the Model S as well. We don't need to live in a world of touch this, turn that. There is technology to just speak it! Say, "Volume Up" or "Down", "Call Wife" , "Drive To 300 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA" or "Set Temperature to 98 degrees", ect.

I rather not speak to my car. It's slow and inaccurate and prune to errors. It also tends to wake up people that might be sleeping in the car. I would also like to be able to turn volume up or down if I have sore throat and lost my voice. And obviously you wouldn't want to drive my car, unless you want to be in sauna. I don't think "Drive to" is a GPS command unless you are driving in a KITT. Blog will ruin this but:(pause, linefeed)

1) "activate GPS."(linefeed)
2) "find nearest this and that".(pause, linefeed)

I don't use GPS unless I'm going in completely unknown destination, and if I am, then I program it before starting my journey, so voice recognition is pretty useless for it. Only case I could use it is above case IE. finding something in a place what I don't know.(pause, linefeed)

In future where cars can drive themselves I find them "ready" when they recognize "drive there!" (finger pointing out of window) -command.

Does the car have voice support? I have than in my 3 series, although its not perfect, it aids in safe driving. I can make calls, change Radio stations just by speaking.

About the screen controls... I reach for my dash most times to control audio or navigation functions. Lot of the times I have buttons to grab, which make the interaction easier. With the LCD screen I'll be required to see where my hand is on the screen. I suppose as long as the GUI is smart and designed such that with one glimpse at the panel it gives to quick access to the most important parts of the dash device I am using, I'd be fine with that.

Steering wheel controls are quite useful here as well. I'd like the see the 3 series controls on the Tesla. The features I find useful are: volume up/down, station up/down, navigation position, voice activation.


But Timo, if it wasn't as slow and inaccurate (unless maybe you have an accent) then how would you feel about it? I for one talk to my current car an awful lot (bluetooth connectivity on my Parrot Cellular system to my iPhone 4) and have great success with what few commands I can do. "Drive to ..." maybe a command used by Michael Knight but I use my GPS all the time even when I'm going someplace I already know how to get to since my GPS is equipped with the option to re-route me in the case of bad traffic somewhere along my route. Am I the only one who uses his GPS for 75% of my trips?

I also like steering wheel controls and that would also be a welcome option for me. I often drive alone and so talking is best suited for me and I also love driving around in a warmer climate car (I was just never built for cold environments so I love the Volt's SmartPhone integration to trigger the car to warmup before I get into it). I however hate everything else about the Volt, it's still just another lame Hybrid to me but I digress.

I think any well designed touch screen interface with some sort of feedback coupled with Voice recognition that works and some steering wheel controls within reason (not overdone) would be awesome IMHO.

OH, I also forgot to share, my sequence number is 1,837 of the General Production (P) reservation list. Thanks again Stephen!

I don't think there is any way to make fast and accurate voice control for example CD volume. Turnable knob is only really accurate and fast control for that. Talking just isn't accurate and it is slow.

For GPS that talks back I would pretty soon tell it to shut up for distracting my driving experience. There is something really heavenly to have nice silent car with right music playing and tranquility of movement. If there were GPS babbling about how many km I have left I think that screen would meet my fist pretty fast. For my GPS would be off 95% of time.


Relax. Tesla is not full of a bunch of second rate engineering dropouts. They're not stupid. They have very bright engineers and designers working for them, and I guarantee you that they have thought of every one of these potential issues and more. They drive too. They know the hazards and the human factors pitfalls.

Just let them do their thing--you won't be disappointed.

agreed with what Todd said. They wont design something lousy on purpose. Of course they'll want to make it look fantastic for all of us to say "go tesla!"

You (both) don't know that. I would want to hear an confirmation about that from Tesla engineer. I do know that they have technical knowhow, but this kind of screen is new for any car, and it can go badly wrong very easily. I VERY MUCH hope that they don't replace all normal controls by that. If they do I wont buy it.

My 2000 Dodge Dakota Truck has all the Radio/CD controls on the steering wheel so I can’t imagine that I would have to look at the dash for them on my 2012 Model S. And for AC/Heater controls I still have to look at the dash to adjust knob settings anyway. And of course what GPS system has buttons nowadays..
I can’t see that with any system you wouldn’t have to look at the dash, except a reliable speech recognition system and hopefully we are getting there.
I’m hoping Tesla will have that fine voice command system: TEA, EARL GRAY, HOT!

Have to say that I love the idea and possabilities of the large touchscreen. As mentioned earlier, gestures seems like a good way to eliminate a lot of the concerns with having to hunt down a flat button on a screen. I remember seeing a video a while ago where they showed some concept interfaces they were exploring but can't recall if any used gestures. A steering wheel/dash interface like the Ford MyTouch may also be another option to avoid the driver having to interact with the large screen while driving.

Since you mentioned MyFord, looks like the same technology will go into the Leaf which coincidentally is also touch screen based. The press release maybe good reading too. I don't think I want my Model S to be Windows 7 based but getting idea's doesn't hurt!


Call me selfish, but I want all three, the touch-screen, actual buttons/switches, and voice control.

With some work they should be able to strike the right balance, including buttons on the steering wheel (front/back), and voice control that works as least as well as the best systems available today. Oh, and the car needs at least one sultry female voice option; preferably with a French accent.

Ok Tesla, get to work!


I'm not so concerned about what features the touch-screen offers as much as I am about the connectivity that the car offers. The electronics behind the touch-screen will handle a lot of things that aren't obvious, such as blue-tooth connectivity to the device(s) that the driver brings into the car.

Right now, my Dodge Magnum connects my phone to my stereo as soon as I start the car. All phone calls in and out occur hands-free through the car stereo (with a mic in the rear-view mirror). The blue-tooth connection is automatic.

What makes me scratch my head in frustration is that the car stereo system doesn't recognize any blue-tooth protocols other than the hands-free phone connection. As long as the car is connecting my phone to the stereo for phone calls (the hands-free blue-tooth protocol), why doesn't it also recognize the stereo blue-tooth protocol? This would allow me to just hit "play" on my phone's music list (or mp3 player with blue-tooth support) and have my music come through the stereo.

This lack of support for one stereo-related blue-tooth protocol (mp3 function) when another stereo-connected blue-tooth protocol (phone) is supported doesn't make sense to me.

The problem is that inclusion of blue-tooth protocols is a firmware issue, and if it's not included from day-1 it's hard to add another protocol to the system. I hope that Tesla includes every reasonable protocol in their system so that when my phone (or other electronic device like an mp3 player) connects to the car, the car will interact with it fully, not just to make calls.

One can hope...

What you want to look for is A2DP protocol support which is required for wireless music streaming and control from an device including a car's hands free system. I have added this to my Honda Accord via a Parrot Cellular device and it works awesome with my iPhone 4. Tesla I am almost sure will do the same if they want to build the kind of car they have been advertising as to be building in the Model S.

The Roadster's JVC audio (which I really don't like) already does the bluetooth stereo through the sound system thing. Note for Apple Iphone users: the bluetooth "jumps" if you also have WiFi enabled... but if you disable it, everything seems to work fine.


I absolutely love the idea of the huge computerized touch screen! It’s nice to have something different from the status-quo but not so different that it’s repulsive like most concept vehicles. This works well. I think it is tactile and I think the claim that it will require you to look at it is bogus. You still have the same exact gizmos in a car, they’re just not touch screen but they’re still there. You’ll be treating it the same as any other climate control, radio, and navigation system out there. The only difference...Touch screen. Awesome! Ergonomically correct and customizable. Who wouldn't want a car that you can theme out like a phone or an operating system? I think the idea has merit and is why I will be buying this over the roadster (not saying the roadster isn’t neat because it is). Now all we need is a two door version ;)

I have one concern about the touch screen; one which I honestly didn't think would be a big deal until I got an iPad. The smudge factor. I find I am constantly cleaning my iPad. Is there a smundgeless option for a touch screen? Yes, I'm a little nuts, but in bright sun especially it is annoying.

All phone connectivity in vehicles should be disabled while the car is in motion. Hands-free or hands-on, it makes no difference. 4X the likelihood of having an accident causing injury or death. (Not just to the "talker", also to whoever he/she hits.)

As the chemist said, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate!" >:)

That depends of the driver. For some just driving with him and talking is enough as distraction. I have a friend that tends to look at you while talking and that is a bad thing if you are sitting at the back seat and he is driving.

For some phone is not big distraction. Dangerous parts are the opening and closing the phone, not the talking. I could use phone and drive just fine, it's hardly even noticeable as distraction, pretty much same as talking to someone inside the car.

Driving tired or under influence is way more dangerous than talking in the phone while driving. Of course in twisty city traffic going in complex intersection you better ignore the other person be it in the car or in the phone until the situation gets clearer


About 14% of the population can manage talking and driving at once. They're probably bi-polar, or have multiple personality syndrome! For us normal people, talking and driving use the same neural circuits, no matter where we're looking or whether we're using a headset or one hand.

The only reason this hasn't been taken into account in more jurisdictions is that enforcement of a ban on hands-free would be a nightmare.

And texting is even worse, of course. It's truly deadly!

My point is that phone is not much worse than just have someone in the car with you that is talking to you. It is not that much worse than most places are claiming. Driving tired or under influence is much worse. If you know your car well enough and driving is an instinct then talking to the phone doesn't affect your driving at all. What I have read with electric car that instinct develops much faster than with ICE car (it's like walking: you can walk and talk at the same time with no problem).

^thats only with manual transmission cars im assuming.

also, the idea of a touch screen sounds bad, but if it is indeed tactile and has some sort of buttony landmarks or some crap that you can grab and locate without looking away from the road, that would make it alot better. I guess we won't know until they release more information, or a more developed prototype

No, Timo, you're simply wrong about this. You may have the impression that all is well while listening or yakking, but tests on people driving without using a phone, using a hands-on, and hands-free find the latter two are equally bad. And the drivers weren't necessarily aware of it.

Phone is no more dangerous than talking to someone inside the car. That's the point.

repeat: that's the point

That too has been tested.

AFAIK there is no regulation if you can talk with the driver.

Danger with phones is when you start/answer the call and end it. Those parts can be rather distracting, no matter how good driver you are and how well you know your car.

I do have to admit though that for some people it might be more difficult to ignore person in phone when there is a tricky situation in the road than what it would be for someone inside the car. Kind of inability to detach from the phone. Can't say how big number that is compared to people that can ignore the other person as easily as someone inside the car.

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