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I drove the Tesla Model 3 and it's not 'mainstream' (cnn.com)
44 points by evo_9 on Jan 12, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments

What a terrible UI for ... everything. Everything via the touch screen? Including mirrors? windows? Are you fucking kidding me?

And I don't want to hear that, "Well with the assisted pilot" (and no, not "auto pilot", what a stupid marketing ploy. It's not autonomous and you shouldn't give drivers a false sense of security so they're less engaged when driving).

For the $57k price, there should be a heads up display with all relevant data, or at least the option for one.

Also, what is this stupid UI choice recently in "less is more?" There are so many devices out there today with "one button" and different LED flashing patterns you have to remember for use. Do the windows really not have power buttons, because dropping the window at a drive through is going to be super annoying and more complicated than it should be.

Edit: spelling

They have to put at least a frickin' speedometer front and center (relative to the driver), and preferably a battery level meter too. It couldn't cost that much more to put one there.

Would be very surprised if there doesn't end up being a market for aftermarket mods for that sort of thing. Hopefully Tesla takes the hint and fixes it on the next iteration.

Personally, I can't imagine the speedometer bothering me. What really bothers me is the lack of tactile controls. When I'm driving in tough conditions (or any conditions for that matter) I need to be able to change basic controls without looking. For instance, if I sense something's amiss and decide the volume is too loud, I can't be playing fat fingers with the touchscreen.

This is what so confuses me. It’s the same reason that your phone makes a horrible TV remote. You have to look back and forth between the controller and what it’s controlling.

I’m genuinely confused why automakers (it’s not just Tesla but they seem to be the worst offenders) do this. Even if we get full self-driving cars tactile controls are still far superior for basic functionality to a touchscreen. For more specific operations sure, but I shouldn’t have to aim a finger mash to change the volume.

I had a friend whose Jeep Cherokee had climate control and heated seats on the touch screen interface. I thought it was a terrible design choice. Actually most of that car was a terrible design choice.

Huh. I personally LOVE using my iPhone as a remote for our Apple TV. Also the way it’s implemented there’s no need to look at your phone at all - the phone is just a giant touchpad that gives you full control of the TV interface..

The steering wheel has tactile controls for volume, next/previous track and voice command interface, it's page 34 in owner's manual https://drive.google.com/file/d/1v9F2sky8jvfjij5ddPwcUjSyXCn...

On Model S the right scroll wheel is used for climate adjustment, so perhaps in the future Tesla will make it configurable in user preferences.

All essential controls should be visible (or at a known standard position, such as the gas pedal) at all times and with a quick glance.

All often used controls are contenders for the same constraints as well, since the more effort you have to put into locating and operating them the more time your attention is not on the road.

Sounds system volume can be essential in some circumstances, but is also used fairly often, so should be easily visible at all times (that is, you should not be able to hide it behind other panels unless it is very easy to return to the default display.

Climate controls are not essential, but also used very often, sometimes more often than sound system volume controls. They also should be visible in the default display.

A speedometer and fuel display are essential, and should always be visible.

I'm not sure how the Tesla display works, but if it allows you to cover these controls with anything and doesn't have a very simple and direct way to got back to a default display with these controls on it, I think that's not only bad design, but dangerous. Hopefully that's not the case.

Well Tesla is headquartered in sunny California, so they aren't all that familiar with these "tough conditions" that nearly the entire rest of the world experiences. As for changing your volume, don't worry; autopilot is doing all the driving for you, right?

Or the defogger. Being able to find that button is a matter of serious safety for me.

Off-center gauges are not unusual or unique to Tesla. Toyota Yaris comes to mind [1]; Saturn Ion and Cooper Mini are some other notable examples.

Having owned a Yaris, I can tell you that it's not a problem. (It's a matter of compromise. The steering wheel can obscure the gauges in other car models.)

[1] https://fcache1.pakwheels.com/original/4X/a/0/e/a0e633fd06ce...

Center gauges are unusual, but not unique to Tesla. There aren't too many more modern examples than the ones you mentioned.

Most (if not all) cars with that dashboard style are budget-oriented cars. This Tesla costs well over 50,000 USD.

Citroën C4, Citroen Xsara Picasso, Toyota Scion xB, Toyota Prius (as late as 2009, at least), Nissan X-Trail (2006), probably others.

These are some of the most popular cars in the world, so hardly unusual.

Toyota in particular claims it's a safety feature, not a cost-saving measure [1]. Many drivers, myself included, prefer center-mounted instrument clusters. I can understand why Tesla does it.

[1] https://www.autoblog.com/2004/10/04/toyota-pushing-center-mo...

That particular trim. Shave off ~$20k for the basic model.

I've been driving a Model S with Autopilot v1 for roughly two years, and lack of speedometer (which my S does have in the heads-up display) is less of a big deal with Tesla than other cars. Even if you do not engage Autopilot, engaging Traffic-Aware Cruise Control buys you accelerating and braking, essentially entrusting other drivers with adhering to speed limits while you tag along behind.

I only end up using the brake pedal at a stop sign or at the red light when I'm the first car.

The autopilot is also aware of the speed limit signs, and with Model 3 you can assign an offset (e.g. always drive at speed limit + 5).

As other people pointed out, there are other models on the market that do not have speedometers right in front of the driver, Toyota Prius being the prime example https://di-uploads-pod4.dealerinspire.com/napervilletoyota/u...

> As other people pointed out, there are other models on the market that do not have speedometers right in front of the driver

If all your friends jumped off a bridge…

Not saying it’s a trend that everybody should copy, but acceptance/rejection factor for Model 3 design will vary significantly depending on what the person drove previously.

I read that putting the speedometer off on the side was done partially in the name of safety. Supposedly, it's easier for your eyes to switch focus between intermediate (center console) and far (road) distances. Not sure where I read that though.

Exactly. The touchscreen is a safety hazard. There's a reason why military aircraft utilize a HUD.

> There are so many devices out there today with "one button" and different LED flashing patterns you have to remember for use.

The Samuel Morse School of User Interface Design.

The Model S has been using one big touchscreen for the center console for the last five years, and it has been working just fine.

I recently rented a Toyota Corolla. The buttons and console were ugly and plasticky. But damn were they easy and intuitive to use!!

So it is good looking, it is fun to drive, it has a decent base price if you don't splurge on options. Changing speed through the touchscreen when you are using the autopilot hardly seems the end of the world. So almost all positives.

I really dislike the center console. At least the speedometer should be visible at all times(a hud focused at infinity would be ideal), everything else is less important. Still, this is becoming a trend now (I'd guess it's for cost-cutting).

What about readability of that screen under sunlight? I see nothing in the article addressing that. Is it just a non-issue?

Even if you avoid the Autopilot, you can still use the Traffic-Aware Cruise Control, which buys you braking and accelerating when approaching the other vehicles, but does not do lane changes / lane assist for you.

TACC reads and interprets the speed limit signs. From Model 3 Owner's Manual:

"Traffic-Aware Cruise Control makes it easy to cruise at the speed limit. You can cruise at the speed limit that is currently being determined by Speed Assist (see Speed Assist on page 78). To do so, move the gear lever fully down once then release.

When you release, your cruising speed is set to the speed that is determined by Speed Assist, taking into consideration any offset you have specified. If you are already driving faster than the speed limit when you pull the lever, the set speed does not adjust to the speed limit—it adjusts to your current driving speed."

With TACC enabled the only time you have to keep track of speedometer is sign edge cases (e.g. Limit 25 but only when children present) or if the speed limit was obstructed.

The Saturn Ion had a really similar speedometer placement. I actually liked it since it was in the same horizontal line as the left/right mirrors so it took a little less effort to use.

This is usually done for cost saving reasons, since the gauges don't need to be moved for right or left hand drive builds.

Same goes for center "master power windows" controls, locks, etc

Every time I see center mounted stuff I figure it is a global car platform and a cost saving measure.

The steering wheel assembly itself still goes on one side or the other, though. If they have to be non-symmetrical about that, they can find a way to be non-symmetrical with a simple speedometer too.

Sure, I know that's part of it. That said it doesn't preclude that I found it easier to use.

Cooper Mini and Toyota Yaris, too, and probably a bunch of others. It's not an unusual design.

The idea of touch screens for everything was the devil's work. The only thing they bring is an easily re-configurable UI in a small space. But if you're in a context where you're performing one or a small number of main tasks, nothing beats the usability and safety of dedicated buttons and knobs.

This is a pretty sparse article/video that doesn't quite back up the premise of the headline, which is "the only people who will buy one are Tesla people". Basically the single complaint is "the gauges and controls are on a touchscreen". There's a side complaint of "the one I drove was really expensive" but those are options, which every vehicle has.

Everything else is "it's fast and exciting and fun" which sounds pretty appealing.

I have the new Prius Prime that uses a giant touchscreen as well and not using mechanical controls for things like AC and Radio at least partially is a terrible trend. It's so distracting being unable to adjust things without looking away from the road.

You’re not alone. My favorite interfaces on cars for the AC are the simple two analog dials, one for temperature and one for fan strength. Ditto for radio ... nothing beats an analog spinner with discrete clicks.

Totally agree. The car manufacturers threw some of the principles of car evolution out the window when things went digital.

Totally with you.

My next "new" car will be something used that has physical dials and switches. I'll spend the differential $ on rebuilding engine/trannie and other wearable components.

I do not ever want to look away from my driver's sight picture to adjust something like AC or radio.

So I like physical controls too but I'm thinking of my current car that has them and I'm sure that I end up looking at them when I use them. If it doesn't involve digging around in menus then it's probably about the same, distraction-wise.

I've found that after about 6 months I find the controls by touch with no need to look at them. Touch screens more than one level deep never have worked as well for me in that respect.

I believe NOT using mechanical controls is a step in the right direction for UI/UX in cars. Eventually this will lead to voice controls which will ultimately be safer.

ah yes, voice control....

In your tesla all you might have to do is say "left driver seat window down" and the window opens. If you only want it halfway down you will have to say "stop" at the right point.

Of course if your aunt borrows your car she will have no idea how to roll down the window because she doesn't know the proper voice control.

Of course it won't work when the window is open and you're driving fast because of the noise.

Of course you won't be able to remember all of the voice controls, and will inevitably end up screaming at your car to open the hood because you don't remember exactly which words to use.

Of course, before you go on your first ride you should read the manual and memorise all the voice controls.

Of course you should never say the words "open hood" while driving for obvious reasons.

Do you still think voice control is a great idea in a car?

True. Thanks for enlightening me.

Maybe a combination of a more seamless UI like Star Trek along voice with control then?

Eventually this will lead to voice controls...

Voice controls as imagined by science fiction like Star Trek and implemented by Apple, Amazon, some cars, etc. are one of the worst UI designs imaginable. Vocal communication is a Hollywood trope to make up for the fact that flipping a light switch doesn't make for compelling television. Vocal communication is slow, ambiguous, leaky, and distracting, whereas mechanical interfaces can be operated almost subconsciously. How long does it take you to depress the brake pedal in a car, versus, "Okay Google, [long pause, waiting for enough cell bandwidth] please stop before you hit that car in front of me!"

Sure, you might say cars will take care of stopping automatically. But that just proves the point that voice is an unsuitable UI medium. And cars don't yet stop autonomously with 100% reliability, and there are a thousand less critical but more common interactions with everyday systems that are just ridiculous for voice: turning on lights, adjusting the volume of a stereo, locking a door, etc. The last holiday party I went to the hosts were using an Echo for music, and the entire conversation had to pause for 30 seconds every time someone wanted to change the volume. Give me sensor-based automation, give me switches and knobs, give me anything but a voice interface.

Why not both? I don't want to be doing voice commands while I have a baby sleeping in the back seat for example.

So what are the speech-impaired to do then?

When I'm driving I find it less distracting to adjust the AC or the music via knobs, than to use the voice activated calling function. Mind you my cars speech recognition is quick and superb, but skipping a track, adjusting a mirror, or setting the air conditioner are automatic and don't require me to focus on anything else but driving. I doubt voice everything will make anything safer.

>but those are options, which every vehicle has.

> Everything else is "it's fast and exciting and fun" which sounds pretty appealing.

These two are in conflict. The main expensive option was the range option, which also makes it accelerate faster.

Are you saying the base model is slower than a comparable gasoline car? Are you also claiming that most cars don't have options that include items that make the car faster? Like turbos, bigger engines, etc?

Nope. I'm claiming the reviewer's stuff about the car's feeling was also based on the options, though he did say he would try to "mentally subtract them". Seems like it would be better to just get a review from someone who tried the base model, rather than someone trying to mentally subtract them. Especially when they are as tactile as drive feel.

At the end I was scrolling down looking for the rest of the article.

"But compared to similarly priced cars it's not worth it"

Similarly priced $50,000 cars. But what about similarly priced $30,000 cars?

Wow that article was low on substance.

Basically the author wanted more physical buttons. Everything else was a compliment.

He said the lack of buttons was extremely distracting. That's only one problem, but a big problem.

The article doesn't make a lot of sense by itself. It's more a direct writeup of the video.

TL;DR It is a car made for people who do not like driving cars the old way.

Huge market: old people, easily distracted people, people who are not petrolheads.

But surely all car review experts will miss the current interfaces we have grown to love and like. I have issues with every single car that tries to modernize the interface. Think Citroen with it's odd satelites, think BMW with it's knob-thiny, but every once in a while there are changes that are just fantastic: HUD! Steeringwheel heating! DSG!

So the main problem for the author is the instruments cluster, it seems. They keep mentioning other cars that they’d like to have at various price points, yet don’t offer any concrete models and don’t mention any pluses and minuses they might have. It just seems like a random rant, that’s not that objective.

Does the Model 3 have an API? I wonder if aftermarket or DIY knobs and buttons and gauges would be possible.

It has CANBUS. It’s essentially an observation and control bus for all vehicle subsystems. You can interface with it directly with the proper equipment and knowledge.



It kind of does. All modern cars have an "on-board diagnostics" port that devices can plug into to get information about the car, including while it's moving. There are various devices you can buy (Verizon has been marketing one called Hum a lot recently) that can connect to the OBD port and do various things with the information there, such as send you a text if your kid is driving it too quickly or if the car is reporting a fault somewhere. This connector is the same one that service garages hook their diagnostic equipment up to to when you take it in.

I'd imagine someone clever enough could wire together a speedometer which connects to the OBD's connector and shows a current speed, though I'm not sure if there are compromises on resolution or sampling time or that sort of thing.

My car probably shouldnt have an API.

An API for non critical functions is fine: radio, air con, etc.

Probably only want a read only one for everything else though.

Generally what goes for an API around here involves a javascript library, a internet connection, and a sizable amount of data transfer.. and to remotely control something like a thermostat 2-3 feet away from me I have to send packets half way around the world - I'm okay without any of this. If I want to control shit over CANBUS I can.

There's already a standardised bus for data transfer between systems (canbus) so why not an API?

I would rather just connect thru CANBUS

It could just be me, but every time I see a video review of a car and it's not Brian Cooley doing it, I think Brian Cooley would do this better, and he'd sound better doing it. He makes every review interesting.

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