The Tesla Model 3 caused quite a bit of controversy when it was first announced. The subject of discussion was shifted away from the Model 3’s industry-leading price and range. All anyone seemed to care about was the screen. It almost seems silly now.

What was the (imagined) problem?

Complaints about the Model 3’s large touchscreen seemed to fall into 3 categories. It’s poorly positioned, offers no haptic feedback, and can lead to bad habits.

I understand why many people felt the screen was poorly positioned. I mean, the speed isn’t even where drivers are used to. You have to look a whole foot and a half to the side just to see how fast you’re going. That can’t be safe, right?

This seems obviously silly now looking back. It’s not like you’re always looking directly ahead with your neck in a brace. Drivers are always looking around, and glancing down to see your speed takes your eyes off the road either way. It might take a little time to adapt to, but it’s not “poorly positioned” because it’s not where we’re used to. I haven’t heard a single complaint about this from someone who actually drives a Model 3.

The lack of haptic feedback seems like a more real problem to me. Without a physical knob to turn drivers are forced to take their eyes off the road to adjust the heater for example. But I feel this aspect of the infotainment screen has been overblown. There isn’t really a need to be constantly changing stuff like that while you’re driving. Just turn on the AC before you start driving.

Looking around, I found one other complaint I found somewhat confusing. This article argues that since the screen displays blind spot cameras when you use the turn signal. They say this “offers incomplete information too easily”. Basically, since it’s easier to just check the blindspot camera than turn your head drivers may fall into unsafe habits.

The only real solution to this would be to get rid of blindspot cameras. There were similar arguments that adding seatbelts and airbags to cars would make drivers act more recklessly. But I think that some drivers will always be lazy or inattentive, and we shouldn’t let their selfishness impact our safety. I really can’t agree with any argument that’s based on a safety device like blindspot cameras being unsafe.

Where are we now?

Half a decade later I think it’s safe to say these arguments have fallen flat. Model 3 has received top tier safety ratings across the board. And manufacturers are all scrambling to put their own take on the infotainment system, like the widescreen Nissan Ariya and BMW i4.

On top of giving manufacturers more flexibility to add new features, these huge screens are a great cost-saving measure. All those knobs in most cars cost money. And ditching the old way has allowed Tesla to crush the competition on price. Their strategy worked out, and now the Model Y is rolling off the production lines at prices people wouldn’t have believed 5 years ago.

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