Model 3 to Have "Spaceship Controls" and What the Absence of the Binnacle Means

On the outside, the Model 3 looks mildly odd, but it's definitely nothing revolutionary: it's still got four wheels, a windscreen, four regular doors, and the shape of an (admittedly stocky) sedan.
Tesla Model 3 dashboard 2 photos
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube
Tesla Model 3 sketches
The inside is where things get slightly more out of the ordinary, and it all has to do with the dashboard. Forget about the large, floating, landscape-oriented 15-inch LCD placed dead in the centre - if people thought the Mercedes-Benz displays of old looked like an afterthought, then we'd really like to hear what they have to say about this one. It reminds us of one of those wall-mounted TV sets at the dentist's waiting room, and we don't like to be reminded of our dentists in any way.

But that's something that, to a degree, can be found in other cars as well. What is completely new is the rest of the dashboard design. More to the point, the fact that there's absolutely nothing else there: no air vents, no buttons and, most worryingly, no instrument cluster. You might say we should consider ourselves lucky to even have a steering wheel.

There's more truth in that than you might imagine. People (us included) have postulated that the final car will probably get a head-up display that would indeed render a classic binnacle useless. With the way HUDs have evolved over the years, it can easily include all the relevant information like speed, sat-nav directions, battery charge level and other important stuff. However, Elon Musk's answer to somebody who was complaining that the lack of a dashboard/HUD was something he didn't think he could get used to raises even more questions. He says, "It will make sense after part 2 of the Model 3 unveil."

So "the lack of an HUD" will "make sense" after "part 2." There are two things to take out of this answer, the first being a certainty, while the second just speculation. First: without actually saying it, Musk confirmed there won't be a head-up display. Not sure I'm crazy about this prospect, but it doesn't seem like it's something he'd be willing to negotiate about.

Second: the Model 3 will be the first car to introduce us to the way future dashboards will look like. And when we say "future dashboards," we mean those found inside the upcoming autonomous cars. The new "affordable" electric sedan will feature the whole range of Autopilot sensors, so when the time comes, it could be turned into a self-driving car via a simple software update. In that case, the instrument cluster would become a nuisance.

We wouldn't be surprised if part 2 of the unveil focused on the interior and all the software features packed inside the Model 3. The steering wheel is certainly a goner, Elon Musk confirming that what we saw on the presentation cars isn't the final design that will make it on the production version. A sketch he published on Twitter shows a yoke-like control interface, something that's also in line with one of his answers. Cosmin Davidoaia said, "1.Ferrari like steering wheel 2.Move stick functions(turn signals, horn,etc.) on a paddle shifter behind the wheel. That would be cool!" To which Musk replied, "Wait until you see the real steering controls and system for the 3. It feels like a spaceship."

We've all used that comparison before: "man, that toaster looks like a space ship." The difference is that none of us has actually built a space ship, which Elon Musk has, so he's probably more entitled to say that than we are. On the other hand, what the hell does that mean? I guess we'll probably know sometime in the second half of 2017, when the sequel to part 1 will take place. Until then, though, there's plenty more to find out about this car that looks like it'll be a true game-changer.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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