The Model S is one of this year's most anticipated cars, representing the latest in engineering--both hardware and software--from the brightest minds in Silicon Valley. Today, Tesla will begin handing over keys to their first customers at an event in the Bay Area. We got a chance to meet up with the chief UI designer, Brennan Boblett, for the vehicle's massive interface and we can confidently say that this Tesla has the most advanced infotainment of any car in the industry. Let's start with the execution. The interface was designed to be very simliar to the devices that we use daily. Laptops and smartphones have a consistent theme of interaction and design elements that Tesla has recreated. (In fact, they grabbed the guy that worked on the iOS design team.) You'll notice that the interface is very Apple-esque and we aren't complaining.

Tesla Model S Interface Hands On

Text is displayed in high resolution (1920 x 1080) and very high contrast--white text on black backgrounds and vice versa. Although the display is covered with a glossy plate of glass, the "Day Mode" proffers bright elements that allows the screen to be viewed in direct sunlight. Without proper visibility Tesla would have a major issue, considering that many controls are touch-based.

The interface is also super responsive, similar to what you've come to expect from devices like Apple's iPad. The hardware is powered by nVidia Tegra processors. They grab data from the car's CAN bus and quickly populate the screen with beautiful graphics. So beautiful, we could wax poetic all day. The point of using such powerful processors is that much of the frustration with current in-car tech is the slow response the inputs. This often causes a backup when drivers press the buttons multiple times in frustration. The Model S avoids this issue and the result is extremely efficient interaction.

The audio system is impressive as well. It offers all the standard features we expect in new cars like AM/FM, XM, Bluetooth and USB, but adds internet streaming services such as Slacker and Tune-in Radio. The apps take advantage of the Tesla's built-in 3G connection that customers can purchase on either a monthly or annual basis. Tesla has said that if 4G becomes the standard, they can easily upgrade the Model S.

Scanning across the app ribbon at the top of the interface, we see there is a full web browser. While we don't suggest surfing while driving, Tesla hopes to allow passenger control of the browser while underway. We can imagine it being very helpful to have your copilot look up Yelp! restaurant reviews or order movie tickets while on the road. We're told that, until regulators say otherwise, Elon wants to keep these features available while driving.


The navigation portion is very detailed and, just like Google Maps, you can turn on a hybrid view to see topographic satellite images with overlaid roads. The maps can be viewed in fullscreen, to assist in locating your place on the maps. This would be especially useful in large cities.

In addition to the large 17-inch screen, the driver will be spending most of time looking at the driver gauge cluster behind the wheel. Customizable options include displaying speed, energy consumption, album art, navigation and so on. This display impresses as well, with 12.3-inches of screen real estate. All the animations between screen modes are smooth and show that a lot of care went into the development.

There isn't a better place to get serious about in-car tech than Silicon Valley. Some of the best and most capable developers in the world reside there after all. Tesla is as committed to groundbreaking software as it is to electro-chemistry and mechanical engineering. The flexibility of designing everything in-house, right up until launch, allows Tesla to keep the software fresh with the latest advancements. We hope that the rest of the industry takes note and moves to create more effective in-car technology. Just like the electric car, Tesla is once blazing a trail that is sure to push the competition forward.

Share This Photo X