By on October 1, 2018

Saying the Tesla Model 3’s interior is polarizing would be a massive understatement. While some absolutely love the minimalist design and singular, tablet-like interface, others criticize it for being too barren to be considered interesting. The vehicle also saw some blowback over its centrally mounted 15-inch display, which, for several reasons, can serve as a potential distraction to drivers.

In fact, it’s so big that one Washington resident found himself pulled over by a motorcycle cop for having what was presumed to be a computer attached to his dashboard. 

Tesla enthusiast Jon Hall recorded the encounter on September 29th. The video was promptly shared by InsideEVs. After the stop, the initiating officer (or state trooper, as it’s unclear) notifies Hall that he’s not allowed to have his computer mounted on the dashboard, invoking a brief laugh from the driver. Hall even jokingly asks the cop if he’d like to help him remove it. However, the immediate response from the officer isn’t encouraging.

At this point, it becomes apparent to Jon that he needs to clarify that this is how the car came from the factory. “This is stock with the car,” the driver explains. “Like, this literally is my only center console.”

 

Realizing his mistake, the policeman extends an apology after further explanation from Hall on how the Tesla Model 3 functions. He then sends him on his way.

It’s easy to scoff at the law enforcement official’s lack of automotive knowledge and chalk this up as a funny misunderstanding, but he brings up a good point. There really isn’t much difference between the Model 3’s humongous central display and something like an iPad. However, Tesla’s not the only potentially guilty party in this. Other automakers have adopted a similarly high-mounted, tablet-like design for their infotainment displays over the last few years. Granted, they aren’t as big, but they’re not all that different in terms of function.

Even though the officer was on two wheels, InsideEVs tapped into some delicious irony by noting that police cruisers are universally equipped with dashboard-mounted computers. It also said that, if the concept cars are anything to go by, traffic stops like this are about to spike. It’s increasingly rare to see any conceptual design that doesn’t incorporate a glut of large, interactive screens.

Whether this is dangerous or not depends on who’s being asked. Automakers don’t seem to think there’s any danger, but a AAA study last year found most infotainment systems are not satisfactorily intuitive to be considered truly safe to use. It claimed that the best solution is to prohibit drivers from using in-car technologies while in motion — making exceptions for “legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving related purposes.”

[Image: Tesla]

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38 Comments on “Video: Tesla Model 3 Pulled Over For Having a ‘Computer’ Attached to the Dash...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I tried out this car’s “dash” at a Tesla store for a bit, and it was overly complicated, distracting, and non-intuitive.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but this car’s control system would be an instant no-sale for me.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      This screen was one of the reasons I cancelled my 2-year reservation this past March.

      However, I actually test drove a Model 3 two weeks ago, and found the screen to be neutral in its effect. It’s not very intuitive, but I also didn’t miss having dash gauges. As for the car itself, it was much easier to drive than I expected.

      I came close to pulling the trigger on the discounted showroom model this past weekend, but I balked a second time because of the $50k price (despite the government gifts which effectively reduce that).

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Same here. Try to adjust the mirror – you have to go through computer menus all while driving. POS

    • 0 avatar
      wdburt1

      Having a device like this obstruct the view over the dashboard is illegal in many states, is it not?

      To say nothing of the distraction–the focus on what’s going on inside, rather than outside, the car.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        “Having a device like this obstruct the view over the dashboard is illegal in many states, is it not?”

        Gee, I’ll bet those dumb Tesla engineers never thought of that, and the government regulators were paid off to look the other way.

        I’m tall, but I found the display sits far below the line of view. That photo was taken from a very low angle.

    • 0 avatar
      Tummy

      My favorite Star Trek was The Next Generation with all the clean touch screens. I’m guessing that was not your favorite. Driving a Tesla makes me feel like I’m piloting the Defiant or a small, nimble shuttlecraft. It feels like the future and everything with a combustion engine feels nostalgic or a relic of the past to me.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    I thought Washington state was full of tech nerds, where even the cops, the people bagging your groceries and the mail carrier knew about all the latest technological trendy fads? I say this as a systems engineer based in Utah who doesn’t care about technological trendy fads beyond what new security vulnerabilities they introduce.

    Nevertheless, I don’t get why there is a need to have a screen in a car as big as a computer monitor ca. 1998. Welcome to more distractions.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Just what is the law? A cellphone is just a small computer, but that is okay to mount? A large 6” phone is okay, but a 7” tablet is not? A 12” screen that came with the car is fine, but a 12” computer monitor is not?

    • 0 avatar
      cammark

      I’m guessing it’s decided at the state level.

      I remember when preparing for my “written” drivers exam there was a line item in the “no-no” list about “televisions” in view of the driver. At the time, as I remember aftermarket head units with anything that could justifiably be considered a “television” had just come out.

      I just looked up the most recent revision (2014) of the drivers manual (for SC) on the DMV website. It still uses the same or similar wording to what I remember from about 20 years ago…

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        These days any screen is basically a computer or a TV. I guess it comes down to the content being displayed. A map? Your OK. A text message… hmmmm. YouTube… ummm no. My buddy has a new F150 and when his wife sends him a text the system will read it aloud (seems very safe), but only after you tap the screen to acknowledge that you want the message. How is that solving the problem?

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Im not sure about function as I think some of this is needlessly complex for sure, but with respect to asthetics, this thing kills it. I love the minalmist look. So much better than the visual crapshow of most of todays cockpits.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      It would be cooler if they put little info bits into that prolonged gap in the dash.

    • 0 avatar

      For me minimalist means part of the dash, not hanging out. I’ve always hated any screen that adds to the skyline of a dashboard. If this screen actually fit in the dash I’d like it. It’s shares no proportions with the rest of the setup and sticks out, so thumbs down for me.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    RE: the “delicious irony” part. For a living, I insure a large number of small to midsize counties and cities that aren’t big enough or in a financial position to self insure. I will tell you that it is an absolute fact that the laptops police use in their vehicles are very distracting and cause a large number of accidents. Many cities have local ordinances against cell phones but the police are immune- so I’ve had cases where police are on the phone and looking at the mounted laptop at the same time.

    Not disparaging cops there, they’ve got a job to do. If I had my way it would have a lockout so it can only be used while in park.

    • 0 avatar
      Drew8MR

      And they need to be talking on the radio. They talk on cells because it’s not recorded.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      It’d be nearly impossible for them to do their jobs if they had to park every time they used their MDC. Running a license plate is a good example. Sure, LPR (or ALPR) can run plates automatically, but every one needs to be verified by hand.

      However, there may be functions (email) that should be locked out while driving.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    This car should have never been approved for sale.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    The M3 screen is a stupid design UNLESS you have fully automated driving available so you can safely read TTAC or watch movies while the car drives you to your destination. As is, you need to look and touch the screen and then frequently toggle around one of the switches on the steering wheel to do anything on the car. Even the autopilot warning to put your hand on the wheel is a flashing light on the screen, which is probably an indicator of where Tesla thinks the driver’s attention is when the car is “driving itself”.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    I am just waiting for an ipad holder that attaches to this Tesla screen. Then a lawsuit against Tesla for failing to warn of a miserable death if one were to attach an ipad on top of the screen and watch movies while the screen is alerting you to touch the steering wheel after by accident you scroll the right scroll wheel and set the autopilot limit to 95 mph.

  • avatar
    2manycars

    The cop was an unprofessional imbecile who violated the owner’s rights by pulling him over without valid probable cause. At the very least a formal complaint should have been lodged with the cop’s department. It might even be grounds for a civil rights lawsuit.

    Cops are armed enforcers working for a criminal enterprise. It’s best to play hardball with those jerks when they screw up, particularly when their own rules can be used against them. Give an inch and they’ll take a mile.

    https://copblock.org

    https://donttalktocops.com

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Tin foil hats are on aisle three. Good Luck!

    • 0 avatar
      wdburt1

      No way. The cop enforced what’s left of the rules of the road. If you, Mr. Phony Libertarian, think that the roads would be better without rules, then Go with God. And yes, I know a thing or two about what real Libertarianism is.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      “The cop was an unprofessional imbecile who violated the owner’s rights by pulling him over without valid probable cause.”

      To perform the stop and investigate, the officer only needed articulable suspicion. He had that, investigated, and determined no law was being broken. Everything happened as it should.

      Before calling someone else an imbecile, make sure you understand the law yourself.

    • 0 avatar

      As John says: “2manyvillains 2littletime”.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    This is the brilliant way to fight this design – make local laws that computer screens are not legal on the dashboard.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    Geez…what did the police ever do to you? It was a pretty valid stop and the officer did apologize when he realized that yes, there is such foolishness as sticking a screen to the right of the steering wheel to control or monitor everything and no, it wasn’t an aftermarket screen for TV, videoconferencing or surfing the web.

    I do find it a little odd that this officer didn’t recognize the latest car/tech fads, being that Washington state is a major tech hub and secondly, it seems like everybody has a Tesla or know someone who does because they were all over the place when I was there. Heck, they’re popping up everywhere. Maybe he’s a guy like me, maybe he’s just used to round guages in an instrument cluster above the steering column and physical, tactile buttons and knobs on the center stack for the HVAC and stereo, (and if there is a screen, it’s a little 7-incher stuck in the center stack).

    However, I can see why he was concerned about the potential of somebody watching TV/browsing the web/videoconferencing, etc. It’s a pretty big screen. You also have to remember that we share the roads with a lot of crazy people out there who do the craziest things. Somebody out there probably has an iPad attached to their steering wheel as we speak.

    • 0 avatar
      wdburt1

      Perhaps he should have issued a citation to Elon Musk.

      • 0 avatar
        USAFMech

        This comment is more pithy, than thoughtful but…

        The cop used his common-sense (or the pretense of a common-sense law) to initiate the stop – that giant computer screens in the middle of the dash are a bad idea – but he was over-ruled by our Silicon Valley betters.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    That display is gross. A HUD would be cool and possibly an 8 inch screen canted further down would work. Chrysler’s uConnect screen comes to mind as a decent compromise to whatever they were getting at with that.

    I’d be curious how that screen will hold up in high heat/humidity or cold/frost cycles.

  • avatar

    Apparently you are OK in Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota or Ohio. There are no laws against using “video screens”

    https://drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/video-screens/

  • avatar
    JimZ

    that guy perfectly demonstrates the punchability of typical Tesla fans.

  • avatar
    Tummy

    We’ve had our Model 3 since January and also a Model S I got two years ago. Before the Teslas we had the BMW i3, Smart ED, MB SLK350, MB ML63 AMG, E500, Infiniti FX45, Audi TT, BMW 323i…. I’ve had a lot of cars the last 15 years all with different user interfaces and controls.

    I find the touch screen on the 3 and S a lot easier to use than Mercedes COMAND and BMW iDrive. The large screen in the Teslas are also much easier to see navigation maps, your music selections as well as the visualization of the cars around you from the autopilot cameras.

    Many things are set once and are saved in the driver profile so you rarely need to adjust it again (Seat, steering wheel, mirrors). If you know how to use a smartphone and google maps, you will know how to use the touch screen on the Teslas. There are a lot of functions that are voice activated and work really well like music and navigation.

    For cars, it takes about 25 years before new innovations become mainstream. Prius came out 22 years ago and now almost all new cars will be electrified in some way. It’s faster for electronics, but expect it will take a few years before people get use to having an all digital dashboard. Just like it took people a while to give up their blackberries with keyboards when the iPhone came out.

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