Why Does The Model 3 Have No Instrument Panel?

The world has had a couple of days to digest the details of the Tesla Model 3 after it was revealed Thursday night in Los Angeles. Mostly, people have raved about the car. It does have a sleek, sexy design, that’s for sure. It is almost a teardrop shape, with a large front windshield that extends back over the heads of the front seat passengers à la the Model X.

Model 3 interior

That leads directly into a long, sloping, all glass roof that ends just about 18″ short of the rear of the car. No doubt that slippery shape is good for keeping drag low, an important consideration in an electric car. The outside, then, is contemporary but lacks the multiple creases, crinkles, and cut lines so popular with other manufacturers today.

The inside is far from ordinary, however. The dashboard is devoid of any instrumentation whatsoever, save for a 15″ touchscreen mounted horizontally in the center. There is not instrument cluster in front of the driver. What’s up with that?

Chris Zeigler of The Verge attended the unveiling. He reports, “I was told by a Tesla staffer at last night’s event that the dash is essentially production-ready in its current state. In other words, the details may change, but the overall concept isn’t likely to change much; I would be shocked if a traditional instrument cluster magically sprouted between now and late 2017.”

Keep in mind that Elon Musk announced at the unveiling that the Model 3 will have a full complement of the sensors needed to make its Autopilot suite of autonomous driving software fully functional. What conclusion should we draw from that? One Reddit user, Red-Watcher, may have figured it out first. He posted, “The Model 3’s lack of instrument cluster is a clear indication that the Model 3 itself was not necessarily designed to be driven, but rather designed for Tesla’s Autopilot technology to take the wheel.”

He goes on to say, “I think the near complete absence of operator control displays is a logical move from Tesla because they fully anticipate their Autopilot technology to dominant the means of Model 3 operation by the car’s late 2017 rollout date. Elon Musk has repeatedly said that full autonomy is 2 years away, and that doesn’t seem to far fetched to me after seeing the progress made with the Model S and X Autopilot tech.”

Chris Zeigler agrees. “The remaining explanation, I believe, is the biggest one: the Model 3 is a self-driving car. [B]y completely dispensing of the driver-centric cockpit in the Model 3, Tesla is signaling that it wants you to sit back and ride.”

Wow! Got that? Tesla is building the world’s first production car designed to be operated primarily by computers. Talk about pushing the envelope and thinking outside the box! Tesla is so far ahead of the competition, it’s really in a league of its own. Now all it needs is for the legal and regulatory systems to catch up before the first self-driving Model 3’s to roll off the assembly line sometime between now and the start of 2018.

We knew tomorrow was coming. We just didn’t realize it was going to arrive so quickly.

Photo credit: The Verge.


Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.