VIDEO – Tips for Tesla: How Tesla could make the Model S even more awesome

Updated February 18 – a software update means I can now cross auto parking off my wish list 🙂
Updated February 22 – added pothole protection to my wish list

As a tech guy, Tesla’s electric car with an in-built computer is the sort of grown-up toy I’ve been dreaming of, so when I heard that Tesla was finally bringing their cars to Australia, I was thrilled. It took some convincing to get my wife on board, and after ordering the car, the long wait for it to arrive was harder still, but now that I have it, I’m one happy man.

Despite the long wait for the car, I am especially grateful that Tesla has come to Australia at all. They recently made a decision not to bring their cars to South Africa or New Zealand any time soon, so I’m glad we made the cut – not that the Australian government has been especially welcoming to them. For example, when I was in Norway recently, I discovered that the Norwegian government has gone to great lengths to encourage citizens to switch from traditional gas guzzlers to more environmentally friendly electric cars by making the price of electric car purchases competitive with conventional cars. This was done through incentives like exemptions from purchase taxes and other vehicle fees, and offering perks like allowing electric cars to drive in bus lanes. Australia, on the other hand, charges a luxury car tax on the Tesla – 33% of the price over $75,375 (only residents of the ACT are exempt) – so for the P85D model, that’s over $30K! Victorian residents do get a perk – $100 off their car registration. Don’t spend it all at once.

The results? As of March 2015, electric cars in Norway hold more than 20% of the market share. It’s still early days for Tesla in Australia, but I suspect that without government incentives to encourage people to move toward environmentally friendly vehicles, it will be a long time before electric cars enjoy that sort of popularity here.

The car’s pretty popular in my street though. All my neighbours want to drive it. I’ve had the car for a couple of months now, which has given me time to get used to it and learn its quirks, and I’m ready to share what I love about it – and some things that I think Tesla could improve.

tesla-and-ruby

Figure: I’m not the only one who loves it – my daughter Ruby is also a fan. She loved learning all the controls. It’s a long car – in my 1920s garage, there’s only 6cm on each end!

The good:

Hello.

The Tesla offers a beautiful first impression. It looks so clean with the door handles and side mirrors sitting flush against the car when it is off. It is keyless, and as you approach the car, it detects the key fob in your pocket, and the handles and mirrors pop out. You feel like the car says hello to you.

4 steps to 1

Once you get inside, the experience continues. With most cars, getting started is a 4 step process: you unlock the car, insert the key, take off the hand brake, and then put it into drive. With the Tesla it’s one easy step: you get in, no key required to unlock or start the engine, just put it in drive and off you go.

Parking is a similar breeze. There’s no need to put the hand brake on, put it into park, take the key out and then lock up. With the Tesla you just hit “Park” with your thumb and leave the car.

No key?

The key fob itself is a nifty little device. It’s shaped like a miniature Tesla, and that’s not just for show: it’s packed full of sensors that interact with the car. To open the trunk, a double press on the trunk of the little fob pops open the trunk on the car.  Tesla’s key fob is cool, interactive, and a very neat design – but I think Tesla’s goal should be that you never need to get it out of your pocket (more on this in my suggestions to Tesla).

tesla-fob

Figure: the fob is not just for show – it’s interactive and can do things like pop the boot or roll down the windows

No sounds?

The driving experience is equally fantastic: smooth, and so silent. The lack of engine noise is especially great for me as I spend much of my day communicating clients and employees via the phone – there’s no pesky growl of the engine in the background to interfere with the conversation. A word of warning: without the engine noise to muffle you, people near the car report to me they can hear everything, from the blinker to every word of my (impressively clear) Bluetooth phone conversation inside the car.

The 17-inch touchscreen is way better than a spinning knob

The Tesla isn’t the first car to have a touchscreen (but at 17 inches it’s certainly the biggest). It’s miles better than the dial wheel I’ve encountered in some German cars, which I can’t stand. The touchscreen is awesome. It’s is unique because it does more than play movies and give directions – this ‘little’ screen allows you to interact with the whole car, so it’s where all of the magic happens. From this screen you can do all sorts of things, from connecting up your calendar so it shows your appointments in the morning, to raising the car’s suspension so you don’t scrape the bottom. The 17-inch touchscreen is always improving itself with updates, and there’s no more fumbling with the phone. The car shows your appointments, you tap the address and it navigates you there.

Remember me?

I especially love the driver profile, which, as shown in the figure, lets you save driving positions and settings for each driver – very handy as there’s no manual adjustments required after my wife has been driving. It also remembers that I have a steep driveway and automatically raises the suspension so I don’t scrape the bottom (it uses GPS geofencing).

tesla-driver-profile

Figure: Once you’ve created your driver profile, it saves your preferences, so there’s no messing about trying to get the car back to your liking after lending it to someone

No petrol!

This car is CO2 efficient, which makes the environmental impact over the life of the car close to negligible. I hope to install a solar panel on my house that will produce more electricity than I consume with the car, which will make my car carbon footprint zero.

When charging with the car locked, you can’t remove the charging cable – so no one can steal your power. Tesla Australia gave me a wall power unit and a mobile charger for free, so I never have to worry about running out of juice.

tesla-and-eve

Figure: Charging the Tesla is a breeze. Eve figured it out in no time

Great for the absent-minded

If you forget to lock it before you walk away, the car turns off once it can no longer detect the sensor, and the door handles and side mirrors flatten themselves against the car again, so it looks like it’s locked even when it’s not.

Boot space!

Since it doesn’t have a big old combustion engine, it has more storage space than any other sedan on the market. With a front and back boot, I’ve found that when I visit the nursery I can fit more plants and bags of soil in it than I can in my Kluger SUV and I find that amazing.

Special service

I’m not sure if it’s because all the staff they’ve employed are young and enthusiastic, but I’ve dealt with 6 different people in different departments at Tesla Australia and they’ve all been exceptional. When I couldn’t understand what settings I needed on my electricity port at the office, they drove over without me even asking. I’m probably a high maintenance customer, with a lot of questions, and they’ve answered them all patiently. When they didn’t know the answer, the found out and got back to me promptly.

Built-in redundancy plan

Some people will care about getting from 0 to 100 in 2.8 seconds. I don’t. I didn’t buy the P90D, which has Ludicrous Mode, which would allow me to accelerate 1.1g’s (that’s faster than falling!). If anyone knows me, they know I like design systems with redundancy. What I like about the Tesla Model S is that it has motor redundancy. If one of the motors was to fail, I can simply drive home on the other one. It’s like a plane that can get home on one engine.

It’s a head turner

When I go out in the Tesla, I’ve noticed a lot of people turn to look as I drive past, and plenty of people stop to talk about it – every interaction I’ve had has been positive. There’s only about 20 of the cars on the road here in Australia, so they’re still uncommon and there’s a lot of curiosity and hype about them.

Safety

In the end, the most important thing to me is the safety of my family and my 2 little girls, so I’m not going to choose a car that’s super techy that could put them in harms way. The Tesla is the safest car on the road. It received 5 stars in every category and every sub-category (a perfect 5.0 on the NHTSA automobile safety rating). Only 1% of cars have achieved that.


The bad – Tips for Tesla:

Console – Allow me to store more than 10 profiles (#1 in the video)

After letting several friends and colleagues have a drive of the car, I discovered you can only store up to 10 driver profiles.

Make the car family friendly (#2 in the video)

It took a lot of convincing to get my wife to agree to buy the Tesla, so when she saw how bare the car interior was, she was not pleased. Despite its incredible safety rating, the car itself isn’t very family friendly – there’s no pockets to put stuff or even cup holders in the back of the car for the kids. There’s also no hand grips above the back passenger seat windows for them to hang onto (or for us adults to hang a spare shirt). For $600 Tesla sorted out the issues for me in the front by installing a centre console to hide my papers. I could also sort out the issues in the back for another $600 but I think they should be resolved by default.

My wife was also less than impressed with the floor mats – they weren’t sturdy enough to withstand the workout a busy family can put them through, and the front and back boots didn’t come with mats at all. Again, Tesla was able to sort this out for me, but I think this is something that should have come standard with the car. They say less is more, but more is also more.

Add clips to hang shirts on back seats (#3 in the video)

The same hand grips above the back passenger seat windows should have a clip to hang a spare shirt.

No third-row seats *Aussie issue*

In most countries where Tesla is available, the S model comes with the option to add a third row of seats in the back. In Australia and China, this option is not available. The reason this option isn’t offered in Australia is because, although the third row seat belts are a very secure 5-point harness, they don’t meet our stringent safety regulations, which require seat belt fixtures to be anchored to the car roof.

Third row seats are an option I would like to have, so I checked with Tesla to find out if this would be something they would be bringing to Australia any time soon, but unfortunately the answer was no – at this stage the Australian Tesla market is very small, and the number of people who want third row seating is even smaller, so it’s not worth doing a redesign. I’m hoping they revisit this decision once the Tesla becomes more popular in Australia. (Interestingly, in New Zealand the third row seats ARE allowed – but as there’s no Tesla distributors in New Zealand, Kiwis who want one have to import their cars from Australia, meaning they can’t have the third row option either. But what Kiwi would bother to buy a Tesla when they know that to get it serviced they have to send it back to Australia?)

Pre-installed dashcam (#4 in the video)

I want a dashcam installed by default and ideally some integration with an app on Tesla console to quickly mark an incident to review later.

Add a phone mount (#5 in the video)

I can get a third-party one, but since everyone needs to put their phones somewhere, Tesla can make this default.

Auto-detect driver profile (#6 in the video)

It would be cool if the weight sensors in the car were able to auto-detect who was in the drivers’ seat by their weight and change the driver profile automatically, instead of having to change it manually.
With only 2 drivers (a man and woman), the sensors should have no trouble detecting our different weights.

Send me my stats (#7 in the video)

When you’re driving, the Tesla tracks and gives notifications if you make a mistake or traffic infraction – like if you go out of the lane without using the blinker or exceed the speed limit. It also warns you if you start to change lanes while there’s someone in your blind spot.

What I would really love is if these stats got saved to your driver profile and you could have them sent to your email address. When my kids get older this will be very important.

Parking – stop me scuffing the front wheels (#8 in the video)

I’ve found the Tesla the easiest car ever to reverse park, but they could make parking nose-first easier by adding a front camera so you can avoid hitting the front wheel against the gutter.

Auto parking  (Done – came in an update and it works great)

Also on my wish list is auto reverse parking. In the past few years this has become a more common feature, which is available even on second-hand cars like the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta, which I can get now for $10K, so I found it surprising that a car like the Tesla skipped it.

Make the front boot easier to open (#9 in the video)

Because the car doesn’t have an enormous engine the way other cars do, the clever folks at Tesla have used the extra space under the hood as a second boot, and my kids love it. It gets used far more than the back boot, but it’s a pain to open. Opening the back boot is easy because of the physical button, but the front boot requires the key every time. It would be much more convenient if there was a physical button for the front boot as well – definitely one inside the car, and ideally one on the front boot itself.

Locking the car (#10 in the video)

The only indicator that the car has been locked is the lock lights, which means every time I get out of the car I have to stand and watch the car. It’s not a big deal, but it gets annoying. This could be remedied by adding a lock-indicating beep to the car, car keys, or even the iPhone app.

Notifications on phone that windows are down (#11 in the video)

Similarly, I’d love to receive a warning notification if I’ve locked the car but forgotten to put the windows up – a beep sound or a notification to my phone would be great.

One last thing about locking the car: I love that I don’t need to take the key fob out of my pocket to drive the car, and I’d like it if I didn’t need to get it out to lock the car either. A tap and go device on the car or a voice activation (“Lock [car name]”) would be terrific.

Weight stats

As the car has weight sensors on the wheels, it would be great if it displayed the weight of the car contents on the console (and of course, my driving history). That way, after a big Greek feast with my wife’s family, I’d know if I needed the car to auto-raise so we don’t scrape the bottom as we head home with full bellies. 🙂

Heated seats

Despite all the other changes made to the Model S to make the car Australian-friendly, they’ve kept the heated seats. They’re not really necessary for the Australian market, and although my kids like them, I’m not a fan. This is the sort of thing I’d like to see Tesla make optional.

No heads-up display

Potentially some people may want a heads-up display on the windscreen. I guess it may be nice, but I don’t I need it since you have such a big screen.

Console app wishlist – Skype (#12 in the video)

The car connects to my iPhone and lets me take calls through the screen, but there’s no camera for FaceTime, and no Skype app. These are both things I hope Tesla includes in future updates/models.

Console app wishlist – weather (#13 in the video)

A weather app with a rain forecast would be a welcome addition to the console, I want to click the temperature display in the top corner and get a full app.

Console app wishlist – a web browser *Aussie issue* (#14 in the video)

As with the third-row seating, in other countries the Tesla comes with a web browser in the console. However, it’s law in Australia that you can’t have a web browser (or moving images like TV) on the console of a car while it’s in drive – so the Australian S model doesn’t have a web browser at all. I asked if the Tesla software developers were working on creating a web browser that would work while the car was in park, but that isn’t a priority for them at the moment (their focus is currently on creating an auto pilot system, which is something I look forward to seeing).

tesla-Norway-browser

Figure: In Norway, you get a web browser but in Australia this has been excluded

Console app wishlist – Add mail app (#15 in the video)

I want to able to my read my emails on the console. Of course, it’s fine if only available if the car is parked.

Phone app wishlist – Windows phone (#16 in the video)

The iPhone app is awesome. As a Windows man, it would also be great if there was an app for the Windows phone. With WP10 and the ability to recompile an android app to WP10 there is now no real development effort, so there’s no excuse not to have one.

Console – help me clean the profiles (#17 in the video)

I also want to clean my Bluetooth profiles. In order to help me decide which profiles to keep and which I can remove, it would be really handy if the console showed me stats on:

  • number of times connected
  • date last used
  • driver profiles used
tesla-bluetooth

Figure: Help me figure out which Bluetooth profiles I can delete by providing stats on how often they’re used

Pothole protection?

Yes please. Ford and other companies have technology that senses potholes and tightens the cars suspension so that a vehicle’s wheels avoid the heavy ‘clunk’ and effectively glide over the pothole.

Updating the car software (#18 in the video)

The Tesla runs a Linux-based OS which occasionally requires updating. During this process, which which seems to take about an hour, there was no progress bar showing info on what step of the update I was up to. More concerning, the screen displays the message “Software Update required. Contact Tesla Service” the whole time. I thought the process had completely busted, which was concerning.

In the next software update, I’d love to see them include a progress bar.

A special offer

Tesla knows their cars are expensive and use simple tricks to try to keep them more affordable.

For example, although most people are now aware of these cars, Tesla don’t ever advertise. They prefer to use word of mouth, like my video and blog post right here. I’m not promoting Tesla for any reason other than I love this car – you’ve just seen a video that exposes the warts and all of this fine vehicle.

If you see a famous person driving a Tesla it’s not through some celebrity endorsement program. If you see a Tesla in a movie, this is not through a product placement program. Elon Musk does not believe in dishonesty in advertising.

It’s so weird. Even when you go in the store, you have to go up to a computer and buy it the same as how you would do it at home.

Selling a car through a store costs around $3,000 extra. This is where I come in: If you like what you saw in this blog post, and want one of your own, I have a discount code that will benefit us both: you get $1,500 off your Tesla purchase, and I get $1,500 off my next purchase (in case you hadn’t noticed my number plate, I’m hankering for a Tesla X!).

Plus, if I get 5 referrals, I get to go to the Gigafactory in Nevada – the largest factory in the world – and see where the magic happens. That would be cool.

Want the code? Visit http://adamcogan.com/tesla/ to find out how.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading this long post. It’s a great car and with every update it gets better. If you’re thinking about buying one, do yourself a favour and don’t delay. I look forward to seeing more of them on the roads.

I’d love to know which of my tips for Tesla do you agree with and which you don’t.

Footnote: My crashed Tesla

My wife was not happy when she saw this on Facebook and Twitter. Lucky it was April Fools’ Day 😀