By Jeffrey the Barak.
Dangerous and complicated?
Is it possible to form an opinion of a car without driving it? Yes, we can watch other peoples’ reviews of cars on television. And that is the extent of my experience with the Tesla model 3. This is a vicarious review, but still reasonable as you will see.
The single control interface of the Tesla Model 3 requires the operation of the center touchscreen monitor, swiping, selecting pages, and buttons on pages. The driver has to look at the screen while doing all of this and the screen is where an old car radio used to be.
How many of us almost crashed because we were fiddling with radios or tape decks? There is no stalk for the wipers, and no switch for the cruise control. To set the wipers, you may have to go through three pages, and this could take as long as it takes to move 50 yards. That’s a 50 yard killing zone.
I have a Honda CR-V and even that is complicated to the extent that I have not memorized all the operating procedures. Controlling the vehicle takes my attention off the road ahead. It’s a bit dangerous to use the instrument cluster screens and the center screen and I have to discipline myself to come back later when I have stopped moving. But it is not nearly as dangerous as where the Tesla Model 3 is taking us.
We have had instrument clusters as a replacement for gauge arrays for decades. Why do we now have complex touchscreens below the center of the dashboard? We need to look where we are going and return to physical controls and muscle-memory. Touch screens are a menace in cars.
With, for example, a wiper stalk, you remember where it was and it is still there. You remember how to move it up and down and twist it, or pull it back for washer spray, without ever peering behind the steering wheel to look at it. The operations are in your muscle memory, and you do any or all of this while you are watching where you are going. Now imagine all these procedures transferred to a touch screen interface. There is no such stalk in this car.
And what about presbyopia? How many of us drive cars with distance glasses, but use tablets and smartphones with reading or computer-distance prescriptions? Can the distance glasses needed to make us as safe as youngsters with 20/20 vision while we drive, bring this much closer touchscreen with it’s tiny fonts, into sharp focus within a split second of our risky glance?
Just because you can, does not mean you should design it like that. Cars are getting better and more capable, but the interfaces are forgetting how human the drivers are.