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The redesigned Tesla Model S and X automatically decides if you should be in park, drive, or reverse

This sounds safe…

Tesla interior showing car icon on touchscreen for gear selection
Image: Tesla

A couple of months back, Tesla announced redesigned Model S and Model X vehicles, with one of the big changes being the removal of all the usual ‘stalks’ behind the steering wheel. One of those stalks controlled the gear-changes, so we wondered where that function would live on the new designs. Well, now we know, with a hybrid system that automatically changes gears based on what the car ‘sees,’ with a backup on the touchscreen.

That backup on the touchscreen isn’t separated buttons, as you’d expect. Instead, a tiny car icon on the left of the touchscreen serves as a joystick. Dragging that icon up puts your Tesla into drive, dragging down gets reverse, and neutral is buried in a submenu. We haven’t seen any indication of how to put the car into park as of yet, but maybe it’ll be smart enough to automatically do that when you reach your destination.

The system behind this is probably pretty complicated, as any system that makes things simple for the user tends to be. Earlier this year, CEO Elon Musk tweeted “Car guesses drive direction based on what obstacles it sees, context & nav map,” so pretty much the car decides which way it wants to drive. Electrek found out that Tesla’s documentation says a vehicle would “automatically shift to Reverse once the driver presses the brake pedal” if the car noticed it was facing a garage wall, etc.

Apparently, this removal of the gear selector is within Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as well, as they are more concerned about the order that PRND are displayed, and not as much about how the carmaker decides to implement shifting. Maybe those regulations will get revised once the agency realizes that a car is doing the decision making.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere. His hobbies include photography, animation, and hoarding Reddit gold.

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