Is the touch screen a distraction while driving?

Is the touch screen a distraction while driving?

With all the fancy controls and things right at your fingertips, do you find it distracting? From an outside perspective, it looks like someone could easily lose focus on the road and become a danger to themself and those around them.

SamO | January 12, 2014

Yes. Very.

jai9001 | January 12, 2014

I don't think it is, as the interface is very intuitive.

I'm able to control most of the settings from the steering wheel, and I rarely use the touchscreen while the car is in motion. I can change the music or the climate temperature very easily without taking my eyes off the road.

JohnnyMac | January 12, 2014

Not at all. To the contrary, having all functions located in one location simplifies and speeds access. The alternative is countless buttons and switches located thought the cabin. Also, I find myself accesssing the most common of those functions from the steering wheel scroll wheel.

Tanchico | January 12, 2014

For the first week or so maybe, but anything can become a distraction if you let. I spent time learning where everything is before using it, now I'm able to focus on driving. Just don't be browsing the net at 100km on the highway.

dramingly | January 12, 2014

As Tanchico says, only for the first few times. Once you get used to it, its just like any other car. You don't have to look at it and once you know where the controls are, it's fine.

Low CG | January 12, 2014

Not distracting to me. Just traveled and rented a Ford. Had dozens of buttons and switches with very cryptic labels . . . no idea what their functions were. That was distracting . . . made me really appreciate the GUI in my Tesla and the speed and ease I control the functions of the car.

Dramsey | January 12, 2014

Much less so than I would've expected.

michael1800 | January 12, 2014

In rush hour traffic jams, I've been known to be distracted by news sites on the screen. Other than that, using the screen is a simple, non-distracting affair with only the radio stations (internet) coming anywhere near distraction-level, and even then, it's similar to its ICE equivalent.

AmpedRealtor | January 12, 2014

There is also the issue of personal responsibility. If you feel that something is distracting, then pull over next time before you do that something that distracts you. There is no reason on earth why you should be searching Slacker while barreling down the freeway at 75 MPH. Take an exist and park your car if you want to do that. That's just an example.

togliat | January 12, 2014

I sat in my garage and played with the screen and steering wheel interface for an hour to familiarize myself with the GUI and basic functions. I read the manual. As others have said, once you are over the short learning curve, having everything tied to the REALLY intuitive interface results in more efficient use of the controls. I drove my GF's. Kia hybrid and was baffled by the layout, so I think that all vehicles have a "check out" period of familiarization after which muscle memory takes over.

So, in short, the screen is not a distraction for me.

jordanrichard | January 12, 2014

+1 what Amped Realtor said.

In this day and age, everyone wants to blame something else for one's lack of self control. Something is only distracting if you let it be.

When I test drove a MS, I found the rear camera being on, in the upper part of the screen to be too distracting. Not that I was looking directly at it, but it was in my peripheral vision. So I switched it off, problem solved.

2k13MS | January 12, 2014

I found the default brightness on the night display to impair my vision.

I turned the brightness down. Problem solved. | January 12, 2014

like 2k13MS. I found the brightness of the default screens distracting. I reduced both day and night brightness and have no distractions....

Bighorn | January 12, 2014

If it were 1993 and it had Tetris, it might be a problem. So far, not so much.

dramingly | January 12, 2014

In my comment above, I meant with regard to standard functions: temperature, GPS, music. If you drive and try to answer email, update facebook or catch up on websites, then it is just as distracting (and dangerous) as doing it on a cell phone.

AmpedRealtor | January 12, 2014

They should make Angry Birds for my Model S. I should be able to flick them from the speedo to the center console screen!

SamO | January 12, 2014


Now I need a new keyboard . . . coffee everywhere. LOL

Bighorn | January 12, 2014

It was actually 1989 on further reflection--got my 3 year chip in '93.

PhillyMomof4 | January 12, 2014

I test drove a MS for a long weekend and worried the screen would be distracting. Shockingly it wasn't. Sure it was fun to fiddle with each time I got in the car—deciding which features I wanted on the screen, if I wanted a dual screen, if I wanted the map view full-screen, etc—but once I was on the road for a few minutes I stopped looking at it. It's almost so big that you have to tune it out. When my MS arrives next month I think I'll keep it in "screen cleaning" mode most of the time to help reduce any distractions any way.

Haeze | January 12, 2014

No need to manually search slacker while driving, you can use voice controls for that ;) | January 12, 2014

There was a learning curve with all the controls as there is with any new car, but after a couple of days, I find the lack of clutter refreshing.


jbunn | January 12, 2014

I try to keep my active apps like the map on the top part. But it's only as distracting as you let it be.

I suppose if I wanted to do a new redesign, I'd have a taller screen than the driver display (about 11 inches tall) from drivers left ending about where the right edge of the main display is. I think you'd have about the same amount of real estate, and eliminate the main screen altogether. This would prevent the driver from having to lower his eyes or hands.

Perhaps gen 3 when we start getting flexible displays... Works in my mind, anyway...

jbunn | January 12, 2014

Wish we had edit. What I meant to say was a curved display, so the entire screen is never farther than your arm. Wraps from right to left

Tanchico | January 12, 2014

I'm still catching up to the Angry Birds suggestion. Forget flicking to the screen I'd like to flick a few at other drivers!

TonyF | January 12, 2014

I've had my MS for a little more than a year, and just as many owners have stated on this thread, the touch screen was quite distracting at first. But sitting in the non moving car and getting used to the controls (practicing) was easy to do, and after just a couple of weeks, the screen was not distracting at all - just helpful.

tes-s | January 12, 2014

It is only a distraction if you look at it. Same as looking at the audio or other controls in an ICE.

Captain_Zap | January 12, 2014

The only time it is distracting is when the text is too small, the icon is not distinctive enough or the target isn't large enough.
The targets across the top of the screen are great. Most of the switches are large enough too. Some are not.

For example, the home link drop down is too small and you can fat finger the wrong button. The climate control refinement buttons are a bit small as are the "x" to close buttons.

Most of the basic essential functions are readily visible but there is room for improvement. There are a few options I would like that do not exist yet. For example, the ability to quickly flash lights off and on again using a target on the screen that is always available. (i.e. for passing communication)

DTsea | January 12, 2014

It's way less distracting than a handheld cell phone that's for sure.

MS-P519-OH | January 12, 2014

Anything you do outside of pure driving is not good. Cell phone texting is just bad and playing with settings from a touch screen is not good either. Your bouncing around and trying to touch a point on the screen. Where is the world going to but its not changing. Lets put micro chips in everyone so that you can think what you want to do and Big Daddy can log it.

jackhub | January 12, 2014

Re: initial question. Nope!

Mark E | January 12, 2014

@Captain_Zap: in most cars if you pull the column high/low beam stalk towards you the lights flash - is this not the case with the Tesla? If not, I'd be surprised as I haven't driven a car without it since my 1973 muscle car. (anyone remember foot operated high/low beam switches?)

Still waiting to see a car here in Australia & didn't look at that function when looking at a prototype 2 years ago in LA.

Penguin | January 12, 2014

Yes, you can pull the lower stalk towards you and flash the high beams. What you can't do from the stalk is turn the beams off and the on again (i.e. to alert a passing driver that it's okay to move back into your lane). For this you must hit "controls" on the touchscreen, then tap the "parking" position for the lights, then tap "on" or "auto" for the lights again. Much more cumbersome, difficult to do quickly, difficult to do without looking at the screen.

Yah, I remember the foot switch. :-)

Roamer@AZ USA | January 12, 2014

The screen can be distracting if you are using the vanity mirror to check your hair while eating a Big Mac and holding a Starbucks in the other hand. Other than that I hardly notice it's there.

Brian H | January 12, 2014

Checking your hair while eating a Big Mac suggests a new possible answer to the question, "Where's the beef?"

NKYTA | January 13, 2014

99% of the time, nope.
Occasionally I'll find myself messing with sizing/moving the Nav. My wife as caught me enough times that even that behavior is becoming un-learned. | January 13, 2014

@Captain_Zap "... buttons are a bit small as are the "x" to close buttons."

Not obvious, but rather than try and hit the small "x" dialog close button, you can tap anywhere in the dim area outside the dialog box to close the dialog.

For non-owners, there are only a few dialog, and they rarely occur while driving. There is so much screen real-estate, Tesla has eliminated most of the painful nested menus you find on other cars with smaller screens.