Tesla’s Smart Shift and Touchscreen Shifter are Causing a Stir

Published on March 25, 2021 in News by Guillaume Rivard

It appears Tesla wants to reinvent the wheel, or at least most of the traditional controls found inside cars.

Following the major update to the Model S and Model X announced in late January, much has been said about the proposed yoke-style steering wheel. We also discovered that the turn signal stalk is gone (replaced by buttons on the steering wheel), and the same applies to the stalk for gear shifting from drive, reverse, neutral to parked—a controversial decision among the Tesla community.

Instead, drivers will be able to shift the transmission using a digital slider on the centre touchscreen, as shown in the Twitter clip below:

So, on the left side of the screen, there’s a vehicle icon with little arrows indicating drive and reverse. Dragging the car in either direction seems to be how you select your gear. It’s not clear yet what you have to do to engage neutral or park, however.

Photo: Tesla

Tesla is even going a step further, mind you. In addition to this new method of manual shifting, CEO Elon Musk has said that some Tesla vehicles will feature “Smart Shift” technology where no driver intervention is required at all.

Come again?

Autopilot sensors and artificial intelligence will combine to automatically determine which gear the car should be in. For example, if the front of the Model S/X is facing a garage wall, curb or another vehicle, it will detect this and automatically shift to reverse once the driver presses the brake pedal. You can override the system on the touchscreen, presumably just like in the video.  

Does this sound like a good idea? It is even legal? Right now, there doesn’t seem to be any law or regulation against such technology. Authorities may soon have to investigate, though, because if the touchscreen fails or some other electronic issue prevents Smart Shift from operating properly, the driver would be unable to move the vehicle.

Photo: Tesla
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