When Tesla unveiled the refreshed Model S and Model X, Elon Musk revealed the new EVs would do away with conventional shifting in favor of an automatic system you can override on the touchscreen. But how would that work? You might have just found out. According to Autoblog, Tesla Owners Silicon Valley has shared a brief clip of what appears to be the touchscreen shifter for the 2021 Model S and X.
The interface has you tug a car icon forward or backward depending on the direction you want to move. It's not clear how you'd enter neutral or park, although those might still be automatic or else activated with another command. It appears fairly intuitive, although it's certainly a change from flicking a stalk.
New gear shifting in the s/x refresh pic.twitter.com/0Me0WvSv4Y
— Tesla Owners Silicon Valley (@teslaownersSV) March 24, 2021
And in case you're wondering: this is legal, at least in the US. Federal rules don't mandate physical controls, and they only stipulate that the transmission choice has to be clearly visible whenever the motor is capable of moving the vehicle. It's not clear how well this approach will hold up in other countries.
It's easy to see why Tesla would opt for touchscreen shifting. It feeds into Tesla's tech-savvy image and helps prepare for a future where the car drives itself (and thus doesn't need a stalk). The move also helps Tesla's bottom line — no stalk means fewer parts, easier repairs and faster production.
Not everyone may be thrilled, though. If the touchscreen system fails, you have no choice but to trust that the car will shift the right way. And while the controls are simple, they likely won't be instinctual for many drivers. This is a gamble that you're willing to shake things up in the name of simplicity. Not necessarily a huge gamble, but one worth noting before you spend a fortune on an upscale EV.