This is part of a series that covers my experience with a Tesla Model Y.
One of the more interesting things about Tesla cars is that they have a computer system that essentially helps you run the car. There aren’t gauges or separate places to check things, as everything is in a large screen in the center of the car.
Recently the UI and software updated with a major new release. I’ve had a couple updates since I got the car in September, but in late December, a major change occurred with a new UI. Since I work in software, I wanted to talk about a few of the things.
I have a video of this post, which helps describe what I talk about, but I wanted to note a few things that I think improved, and some that didn’t.
Cleaner and Slightly Customized
The old UI was fine, but I do think the latest version is an improvement in many ways. There are less buttons on the main screen, and some of the visible buttons can be customized. There are also some popups that appear when needed.
An example. The old UI had a button for wipers at the bottom of the screen. Now, there is no button, but if you click the wiper button, a pop-up in the lower left lets you change settings. There are also settings in the main control menu, which appears if you click the “car” icon.
There were also buttons for music, cameras, and other items, which have been replaced by a set of 4 buttons that you can customize with what you want. The same number of items is in a menu, but you can drag one down to the bar if you want it to be always visible.
There also is a “recent” button that changes to whatever you last opened, if it’s not one of your custom buttons. I think this is very handy as I often find myself closing something and then opening it again because I forgot to do something.
One of the features I really like, which I show in the video but forget to talk about,is the blind spot camera. If I enable a turn signal, I get a camera view on the left side of the display, below the animated car, that shows me the side camera on that side.
Other cars do this, but Tesla didn’t build this in and enabled it through a software update. I couldn’t do this in Sept-Nov, but I can now. It’s very useful.
I listen to music often, actually we all do in my family, and we might move between Spotify, our phones, the radio, or the Tesla streaming. As we do this, picking an item means it becomes full screen. I used to swipe down to shrink it, or remove it, but now I can keep clicking the icon and I’ll get these views in rotation:
- full screen
- minimized at the bottom of the screen
This is really nice as I can shrink or grow this easily with minimal distraction from my driving focus.
They also added a menu button in each of the music item that gives me a drop down of all other music sources. Arguably, this should have been done before, but I’ve found design decisions in every car that I think are mistakes. In most cars this means you are stuck with what is there, but Tesla has adapted.
Changes I Don’t Like
I had first titled this as something like poor changes, but really the UI/UX isn’t a yes/no thing, but seen differently by different people. A few things here are items I think are problematic.
First, I liked being able to swipe on the screen and get trip information. I now need to go into a menu and then click another menu. Not a great experience for me. Same for tire pressure as I’m slightly paranoid after my flat tire.
I miss having the driver profile and LTE status on the screen. As someone that shares the car with others, I miss this. I also live in an area where connectivity isn’t always great, so when something doesn’t work, it’s nice to see if I’ve lost service.
The swipe to raise/lower volume is worse now. I really need to click and the click/swipe the control. Not a huge issue as this isn’t used when I’m driving and I rarely mess with it when I’m the passenger.
I do, however, change temperature often. The speed at which a swipe adjustment changes things is too rapid. I find myself wanting to increase the heat by 2-3 degrees and ending up changing it by 10. Then I have to fix it. I can tap tap tap, but all of this distracts me when driving. A poor change.
Opportunities to Do Better
There were things I’d like to see, and still hope I will. I think Tesla missed a chance to clean up a few things.
First, if you allow customization, make sure it’s customized per driver profile. That should be easy.
Second, I have issues with the USB drive losing connection sometime. Having some status or easy way to refresh the port would be nice. Or even a status item. Instead, I have to unplug/replug and wait. Or reboot the car.
Third, an odometer or trip tracker should be visible on screen (or optional). Often I am following some directions or looking for something in xx miles. I’d like to know when I’ve gone xx miles.
I find two sensors, the auto window up/down and the rain sensor for wipers to be far too aggressive. I’d like to see a way to change this slightly. Not sure if this is possible without hardware changes, but if it is, I’d like an option.
Maybe the biggest annoyance is the response on the charging screen to changing the charge limit. It’s slow to respond, and when it does, I can’t get a digital readout of what it’s set to. I can in the mobile app, but I can’t in the car. I drag it around and usually end up at 83% or 91% instead of 80 or 85 or 90. Little thing, but silly to now show this. Or give me a +- set of buttons.
Lastly, fonts. I am getting older and at times some of the fonts are too small to easily see. I could wear readers/bifocals, but shouldn’t I be able to increase the font for important info, like the speed or an info message? I think so.
Overall, I do think this is a cleaner and easier to visualize UI. There are a few annoying things, but only a few. For the most part I like the changes.
The updates have been smooth and easy, and worked well. They run overnight and I see them in the morning. For the most part they changes from one version to the next are minor, and rarely is there something I really need while driving that I can’t find.
I hope that all manufacturers figure out the software side of things and make it easy to work with the system while driving, at least for those important functions like lights and wipers.