Driving the Tesla P85D

We had a bit of a Friday morning jolly here at the Gourmet Pixel office, taking a visit to Tesla Motors to drive their amazing P85D.

Tesla P85D
The Tesla P85D, with "Insane Mode"

The Drive

Driving the P85D is an experience like no other "normal"  car gives. At first the lack of noise is a little strange but you very quickly get used to it. The regen braking also becomes second nature within a few hundred yards of driving, with it you really don't tend to actually use the brakes much at all. It is a super smooth comfortable ride and the 21 inch tyres make you feel like you are glued to the road.

Then there is the "Insane Mode" button. This was switched on almost immediately and the first thing I did after joining the dual carriageway, was thump the accelerator to the floor! Much to the surprise of others in the car... you really should warn passengers when doing this.

I like it. :-)

"The fact that we pour highly flammable and toxic liquid into our cars to make lots of small explosions now seems a bit old fashioned to say the least."

The User Interface

Aside from the drive, as developers and designers of user interfaces - it was the in-car UI that interested me a huge amount. I have to say, whilst actually driving the car I found it all a bit of a confusing display of information.

There is just too much going on, you can do pretty much anything with the on-board computers in this thing - but do you need to see quite so much info, all at the same time?

Current Tesla driver's display
Current Tesla drivers display

The sat nav was displaying my route in a 3D view to the left of the speedo. To the right of the speedo was a graph showing power consumption and within the speedo you had a blue indicator showing your speed, along with another indicator that shows power. This is orange when using power, green when using the regen brakes. Within the speedo are large numbers showing speed, along with a power bar showing remaining power, and estimated range beneath. There are also subtle white drop shadowed curves that appear when there are other vehicles in your blind spots - if those cars get too close it goes red.

Perhaps it would be something you get used to, like any new car it takes time to get used to all the new positions of things - however I think that it could be simplified a great deal, especially when driving so that you can more easily view important information at a glance.

Elon recently tweeted:

What esthetic and functionality improvements would you like to see in the 7.1 UI overhaul? Or new features entirely?

The easy answer to this is to simply moan about the skeuomorphism, but that is easily fixed. I think what the team at Gourmet Pixel would like to see is a general simplification of the UI - make it more contextual, both the large touch screen and the dash/speedo display. 
Your speed should be easier to know at a glance, or even in your peripheral vision - through use of size and colour. 

Gourmet Pixel's thoughts on Tesla in-car UI
How with think it should be, clear simple and quick - RED! You're going too fast!

The Tesla D reads the road signals and knows what speed you should be doing, so why not provide the driver with a clear visual indication of when they are driving slower than the limit, at the limit and too fast? Simple amber, green and red colour coding could easily enable them to see with barely taking their eyes off the road.
Perhaps more gestures, to enable easier navigation? An example would be the popover information window for changing settings in the car. To close these you have to tap a small X button at the top left. 

Why not just swipe them away like you can within Safari or Chrome on iOS?

Live / Smart traffic would be a great think to see, perhaps some kind of integration with Waze data?
The large touch screen seems (I could be wrong - I've only driven the Model S once) to be the thing you use whilst not driving, to set up the car, input sat nav destination info etc.

I suppose you can use it for navigating phone and radio/music options - but I am also guessing that you can also do this via the drivers speedo display using the steering wheel controls too, which would be the safer option.

Here is a thought Elon: Get rid of the large touch screen.... do you need it? I know it is a great selling point and an initial WOW factor to the car, but it isn't what makes the Tesla great. Actually driving the Tesla, the technology, the potential - these are the things that make it great, those things are the WOW factor.

Anyone who buys a Tesla WILL have a smartphone - fact! So why not make a great app that allows owners to make all the tweaks and adjustments to the car, input destinations, set favourite radio stations and more.

The app should be smart and work perfectly with the car. It should know that when I get in the car, I want Spotify to be playing. Or that I have a meeting in an hour and display the sat nav with directions to the meeting all ready and waiting. I doubt Tesla will allow 3rd party apps, but I think they should - in a controlled way with strict UI guidelines.

When Tesla launch the Model 3 to the masses, I am sure that LOTS of people will by one. This will only open the UX up to more scrutiny and people will want to be able to customise their experience.  Much like their smartphones, where they can tailor their device to their needs and requirements with 3rd party apps.

Comparing Tesla UI with how Gourmet Pixel would design it.