I Drove a Tesla

I normally write about developer related subjects on my blog but today I’m deviating from that slightly. When my mum and brother visited Austin last week my brother decided to rent a larger car for a day trip, but not just any car, a Tesla Model X 90D. For those unfamiliar with Tesla it’s a company owned by entrepreneur Elon Musk. Their cars are completely electric, packed full of technology, and can even drive themselves. Needless to say I was pretty excited to get behind the wheel.

James driving a Tesla

Key and Doors

Much like my Mini Cooper the Model X has no traditional key, it just has a key fob which sits in your pocket and as long as the key is within the car it will start. However, unlike my Mini Cooper the Model X has a small model of itself for the key fob. Each part of the key fob opens or closes the corresponding part of the car. For instance if you double tap on the boot it will swing open without touching it. While this is cool, I found it quite fiddly to use and found it hard to get it to do what I wanted it to do when I wanted it to do it. I had a hard time getting the passenger doors to open, and kept opening up the drivers side door instead.

Tesla Key

The Model X features some of the craziest doors I’ve ever seen on a car. The front two are normal, but the the back two are very different. When opened from either the inside or outside the exterior of the car makes an alert sound sort of like a phone notiifcation before opening like a pair of seagull wings. These doors can open and close automatically by just pressing a button, it’s something you’d expect from a James Bond movie. If something blocks the sensor (in one case my brothers head) it will play another alert and stop the door from opening or closing.

The Model X Gulwing Doors

The Dashboard

There’s no centre dashboard toggles or buttons on the Model X. Instead all you have is a giant tablet that controls the entire car from the cabin temperature to the radio and even the ride height. I didn’t like this if I’m to be honest. While driving you constantly have to take your eyes off the road to adjust basic things like the air conditioning. i feel at times it does the opposite of what it sets out to achieve. I don’t feel that you should have to go through multiple touch screen menus while driving to simply turn down the heater. Even though some of this can also be adjusted via the steering column, it still requires going through multiple menus to get to the area you’d like to adjust.

Car Controls

Other parts of the dashboard, more specifically the area behind the steering wheel are great. For instance you can see the navigation data right next to the speedometer, and you can also see what the car sees. The Model X displays an animated car sitting within a lane just below your current speed, this is real-time and updates to show your current lane position. It will also show you other cars, lorries, and even motorbikes appearing in front, and to the left and right of you. This is what the car sees using its massive arsenal of cameras and sensors. The data is fed through the cars computer to provide a number of safety features, but most interestingly its auto-pilot system, which is what you can activate to have the Model X drive itsself.

Tesla Sensors

Web Browser

The Model X includes a web browser as part of the entertainment system. Considering the fact that I enjoy developing things for the web I was pretty excited by this. However I was let down pretty quickly. The browser is slow, and doesn’t load websites properly at all. It reminds me of the old Internet Explorer days with very little support for modern practices. Even the Tesla website doesn’t load properly.

The Tesla Web Browser

I was hoping that there would be common API’s available similar to Chrome and Safari. I wasn’t even able to find an emulator, developer kit or documentation so I could see what sites of mine do or do not work properly. Hopefully Tesla updates this in the future because I feel for the people who try to use it, and there’s a lot of potential for it to be something great, it’s certainly the most dated thing I found in the car.

Charging the Car

On our road trip we had to charge the car twice. When you plan a trip the cars navigation will tell you what your charge will be like when you reach your destination. If it thinks you need to charge the car during the trip it will navigate you towards one of the charging stations, all of which are stored on the cars navigation system. Upon arriving at a charging station you simply plug in your car, wait ten minutes, and go. When we charged up the car we were a little ways out of town, but there were still a lot of Teslas there. I assume there’s likely a wait to use these in more built up areas like Los Angeles or London.

Charing up the Tesla

We didn’t have to pay to use the charging station, but I find it hard to believe that these will remain free forever.

Would I Buy One?

I wouldn’t buy a Tesla right now. I feel that this technology is in really early stages, and I’d have to see what it’s like once there are more Tesla’s on the road. Charging the car overnight would not be easy if you don’t have a garage, and the charging stations will likely become overcrowded when the Model 3 comes out and there’s a couple hundred thousand extra Teslas on the road. With that being said the car was a joy to drive and I really enjoyed my day with it. I’d love to try it again in the future.

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