Nose Cone disappears on the Tesla Model S

As I mentionned in my Oct 12th blog post, it was just a matter of time before Tesla Motors updated their Tesla Model S to get the same front end as the Tesla Model X.  And I just love it.

The nose cone looked ok but in my opinion made the car look like it had the nose of a mouse.  This "no-grille" front makes the Model S look more mature and classy.

I do not think that this new front-end will improve the aerodynamic.  It makes the nose of the car flatter which should create more drag. I think Tesla cared more about aerodynamics back when the Model S had the option to come with a 40 kWh battery pack.  Now, the minimum battery pack size being 70 kWh, Franz von Holzhausen. can optimize for beauty a little more than he could do in the past.

In addition, Tesla is also adding directional headlights with 14 directional LEDs to light the road beyond into a curve.  This is something other luxury brands had already.  Tesla is really just getting on par with them on this feature.

They are also adding the Hepa filter to keep the cabin free from viruses, bacteria, fungii and other unhealthy things you don't want to breathe.  This feature is something no other car manufacturers have and it another example of how Tesla can think outside the box better than any other carmaker, in my opinion.

Last but not least, the Tesla Model S now comes with a 48 amp charger allowing for faster recharge when connected to a wall outlet.  Charge don't change when charge from a supercharger.

Nose cone will be gone soon on the Tesla Model S

With the launch of the Model X.  One thing we noticed was the removal of the nose cone that was present in earlier Model X prototypes.

Tesla Model X Prototype with Nose Cone.

Tesla Model X Prototype with Nose Cone.

Tesla Model X without Nose Cone

Tesla Model X without Nose Cone

Tesla kept the removal of the nose cone a secret until the end as you can notice on these spy shots.  They even had a faux nose cone underneath the covers:

Tesla Model X Prototype with a grille bump underneath the white cover.

Tesla Model X Prototype with a grille bump underneath the white cover.

So it is only a matter of time before Tesla ditches the Nose Cone on the Model S.  With my average Photoshop skills, here is what the updated Tesla Model S might look like.

I was never too fond of the Nose Cone in the first place.  I think Tesla Motors created it so that the Model S did not look too different from Internal Combustion Engine cars that have grilles.

Now that Tesla Motors and its Model S are a bit more well-known, I think people are ready for this.  Also because Tesla left a tiny grille at the end of the hood, this looks a lot better than the Infinity without grille of yesteryears.

Grilles have been on cars for a long time because of the necessity of bringing air to the radiator.  Nowadays, most cars are "bottom breathers" and receive air from below the bumper.  Few automakers tried to get rid of the grille because people are so used to it.

Infinity tried to get rid of the grille of its first generation Q45 without much success, the car did not sell very well.

Infinity Q45 without grille.

Infinity Q45 without grille.

Tesla is now pushing ahead with a quasi non-grilled Model X.  I think it looks wonderful, making the current nose cone Model S look dated.

Tesla is going against the trend of making the grilles bigger, trend adopted by Lexus and others:

This trend of big grilles was started by Audi around 2006:

It is nice to see that on top of setting a new technological trend with its Electric cars, Tesla Motors is also setting a new design trend by "almost" eliminating the grille altogether.

Let's see if other automakers will follow.

Amazon, so so experience

Amazon is known for its great user experience.  But, they are still areas that can be improved quite easily.  Here is the email I just received:

  1. My Amazon order has been cancelled, which order, what was the item, I don't remember.  I order so much stuff.
  2. Can't the order number link to my account directly for me to update the expiry date of my credit card?
  3. Couldn't you tell me that this is probably why the payment didn't go through?
  4. When I went into amazon.ca to look at my orders, it is not there.  Not in the Open orders, obviously and not even in the Archived orders.  And there seems to be no other category!

Of course, I had to click on the "Your Orders" button.  And click 2 other times to locate this very important order.

Free advice

Fix what I mentioned above PLUS.

The "Your Account" page could be smarter.  Right now it only shows links to several places I can go.  But why don't design it so that when I have a cancelled order, it shows the cancelled order right there on the Account page.  I won't have 35 cancelled orders, 1 or 2 at the most.  Then I could access them directly.  That would have provided a much better experience.

To extend the concept, have this front Account page show what is relevant to the customer.  If he ordered something, show it.  If he is coming back to his Account page, it is probably because he wants to check something about his order.  

Pre-emptive user experience delight customers.

Tesla Model X Best Features

On September 29, 2015, once again Tesla showed us what kind of car company they are.  Tesla is a design company in the same league as Apple.  They care about the experience they are providing to their customers and don't mind working hard to achieve the best experience possible.  Very few companies are operating under that mindset.

Here is a quick summary of the Tesla Model X's best features.

Falcon Wing Doors

To facilitate entry and exit, Tesla created these doors with a smart double articulation.  These double articulations allow the doors to modify the way they open : Wide-first or Height-first depending on their surroundings which they can sense with a new sonar sensor located within the doors.  Say good-bye to those ugly parking sensors pucks we typically see on cars equipped with parking sensors.  Tesla created a new kind of sensors that can be embedded underneath the metal in the doors but still be able to sense, through the metal, objects near the car.

They look awesome and fulfill a real need.

 

Automated 2nd row seats

Working in conjunction with the Falcon wing doors, the 2nd row seats, are electrically operated to move out of the way, smoothly when someone wants to access the 3rd row.

The 2nd row seats also look very confortable and have room below much like an airplane seat, to be able to stow your items underneath them. 

 

 

 

 

Auto Presenting Front Doors

As much as the auto-presenting door handles were, this one goes a little bit further.  The whole door opens to let you in.  How cool is that?  Very cool.  Then, when it detects that you are sitting in the seat, it closes the door.

The doors are smart enough to only open as wide as needed to be able to let the person in based on the angle the person has when walking towards the car.  Pretty smart and well-designed.

 

Easy Hitch

Because of the Falcon Wing Doors, it will be less convenient to install a roof rack on the Model X.  Elon mentionned you can do so on one side of the car by not using the Falcom Wing Door on that side.

Tesla designed a hitch that can be very easily installed and removed, even by a 10-year old.  For those who have installed hitches before, you know they usually take several minutes to install and require some tools.

Again, Tesla understands that God is in the details.

 

Panoramic Windshield

I kept the most innovative feature for last.  Falcon Wings are great and a show-stopper but this panoramic windshield gets the crown.

What you see in the middle of this windshield is the rear-view mirror.  Yeah, yeah, the windshield of the X becomes your "Sunroof".

I think that the A pillars need to be exceptionally strong to allow this and I suspect that it is Tesla's battery, located in the floor of the car and the SpaceX aluminium bonding technology that allows Tesla to create this work of art.

We'll see if other automakers try to imitate Tesla on this.

Nothing to say, I am just admiring the scenery...

Nothing to say, I am just admiring the scenery...

 

In Summary

I now understand more why the Tesla Model X has been delayed several times.  It was initially scheduled to be released in 2013 and they must have had to tweak all those features to make sure they work well in the real world and bring value to the customers.

It goes to show that it takes time to create quality cars.  The same is true for software.  If you want your software to be smart and elegant, it takes time to do so.  There is just no other way around it.

Near perfect Amazon Customer Service Chat Session

On Dec 30th 2014 I ordered two DVD box sets and paid 3.99 each extra to get them by Jan 2nd 2014.  I only received them on Jan 5th 2015.

I contacted Amazon using chat to get reimbursed.  Much to my pleasure, the  intervention was straightforward and relatively quick.  This is what customer service should be like.

_________________________________________________________________________

Initial Question: Hi, I ordered 2 items on Dec 30th and paid 3.99 extra per item to get them guaranteed by Jan 2nd. I just received them on the Jan 5th.

I want to be reimbursed for the extra Amazon prime one-day shipping

11:29 AM PST James(Amazon): Hello, this is James and I'll certainly help you with your concern.

I am sorry about the delay and I will surely issue the shipping refund for you.

could you help me with the order number

11:29 AM PST Pierre Roberge: Sure

ORDER # 701-99999999-999999999

11:31 AM PST James(Amazon): Thank you, please give me a few minutes

11:38 AM PST James(Amazon): Thank you for your patience Pierre, I have issued a refund and sent you and email confirmation, can you check and let me know if you received it.

11:39 AM PST Pierre Roberge: Sure

Yes I received it

Perfect, thanks a lot

11:39 AM PST James(Amazon): great

Is there anything else I can help you with today?

11:39 AM PST Pierre Roberge: No

11:39 AM PST James(Amazon): Thank you for contacting Amazon, you have a wonderful day ahead and God bless you.

11:40 AM PST Pierre Roberge: Have a good day

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The only thing to improve this experience would have been if the CSR would have explained to me why I did not get it like expected but...I did not really care, I wanted to get reimbursed and this is what happened.  I am happy.

Tesla Model S - Next Generation Seats

At long last, Tesla Motors is bringing new seats on the Model S albeit only on the P85D for now..

When I test drove a Tesla Model S P85 this summer, I could not help but be disappointed with its back seats.  As I sat in the back, the headrests went only as high as the back of my neck.  I am 6' 1''. The Model S is sold as being able to sit 5 adults but with those tiny rear seats, the adults sitting in the back needed to be 5' 8'' or under to be safe from whiplash or safe from hitting their heads on the roof beam.

The new headrests will impact rear visibility but that is the price to pay for the beautiful roof line. What mitigates the loss of visibility is the permanent rear view camera and the Autopilot functionality with its around-the-car 360 degree sonars.

The front and back seats also seem to offer better lateral support.  The P85D passager will surely need it.

I guess it's time again for a test drive!

Compare the Next Generation seats (top picture) with the current seats.


Thoughts on Tesla Model S Speedometer

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Introduction

As a User Experience Designer and a car lover, it was only natural for me to take a closer look at the Tesla Model S instrument cluster, and more specifically the speedometer and the energy indicator. Here is what I found.

The speedometer

The current design of the speedometer/energy indicator is shown in the image below. Note that this picture is taken from an 85 kWh car. 

Take a look at the left part of the dial, the speedometer part. One interesting point to note is that the scale Tesla has used for the speed is not constant. Speed is indicated in 10 mph increments with a thin or thick bar, with numbers at every 20 mph. What is very interesting is that these intervals are not of the same length!

Current Tesla Model S speedometer/energy indicator (myteslamodels.blogspot.com)

Current Tesla Model S speedometer/energy indicator (myteslamodels.blogspot.com)

Variable scale speedometer

Variable scale speedometer

I overlaid a 24-slice circle on the dial to make it easier to see.

From 0 to 60 mph, the intervals fall along the 24-slice guide, but from 60 mph on, they no longer match up. The distance between 60 mph and 80 mph is a little bit shorter than the distance between 40 mph and 60 mph.

Also, the distance between 80 mph and 100 mph is shorter than that between 60 mph and 80 mph. So from 60 mph on, the intervals also get smaller and smaller.  

In addition, there is no visual indication to the driver of this fact. 

A problem

The problem with this shrinking scale is that it gives the driver an incorrect impression about his acceleration.

Imagine you are driving the Tesla Model S, merging onto a highway, and you are accelerating at a constant rate from 0 to 75 mph. You will see your speedometer needle go from 0 to 60 mph at a constant speed, telling you that your acceleration is constant.  Then, for no apparent reason, above 60 mph, the speedometer needle will actually decelerate until you reach 75 mph!  

Consciously, the driver can look at the big white speed number and see that the car keeps accelerating at the same rate, but the impression he is getting from his subconscious or reptilian mind will be different. This causes confusion.

Why did Tesla do that?

Well, I can only guess as to what they were thinking, but these are my two assumptions.

Firstly, since the top speed of the Model S is around 120 mph, using a constant scale would have meant that the 60 mph mark would have been located at the 9 o’clock position; this would have meant that under 60 mph, the needle movement would have been restricted to the first half of the left part of the dial. Since most of our driving is done between 0 and 60 mph, that would not have been a very efficient use of space.

24-slice grid applied. This grid is the basis for the speedometer/energy indicator design.

24-slice grid applied. This grid is the basis for the speedometer/energy indicator design.

Secondly, and more importantly, it would have broken the 24-slice grid that Tesla has used for this dial. Every good design starts with a good structure, and in Tesla’s case that structure is a 24-slice circle.  

The 0 mph mark starts on a vector; the 10, 20, 30 mph and so on each fall on a vertex; the 0 kW starts on a vertex. Tesla clearly wanted the scale of the speedometer to fall on the 24-slice grid.

So, Tesla decided to follow the 24-slice grid up to the 60 mph mark to give a larger area to speeds up to 60 mph, but they still had to fit another 60 mph's worth of increments from there to the top of the dial, and so they had to shrink them more and more up to the 120 mph mark.

Redesigned speedometer respecting the 24-slice grid

An alternate solution

Instead of keeping the intervals constant to 60 mph, why not follow it up to 80 mph?  Since most people (I assume) in the United States rarely go over 80 mph, they would never suffer from the deceptive needle speed.

Then, for people who really want to go at “unlawful speeds (in the US)”, why not flip to a different scale, but one that would nonetheless remain constant from 80 to 120 mph (or whatever the actual speed limit is)?  

This alternative would fully respect the 24-slice grid and would have 2 scales: one for speeds under 80 mph (where most people drive) and one over 80 mph (which I would call warp speed!). The "swish" between the 80 to 120 mph marks would indicate the fact that the scale has changed.

In conclusion, this alternate design:

  • contains two constant scales instead of a changing scale;
  • notifies drivers of the change in scale with the swish; and 
  • means that drivers driving under 80 mph (most people) will never encounter a changing scale.

Energy indicator

Let’s now take a look at the right side of the dial, the energy indicator. As we’ll see, it suffers from some of the same problems as the speedometer. The image is of the 60 kWh Model S. The upper part shows the instantaneous energy consumption and the bottom part shows the instantaneous energy regeneration. The picture at right currently shows the car consuming about 15 kW.

Energy consumption

Since you have now been trained in looking at scales, you will readily notice that the consumption scale (the upper part) is not linear either. It is numbered as shown: 

15, 30, 60, 120, 240

The first interval is worth 15 kW and then it doubles per interval; it is a geometric scale. The same interval is used for energy regeneration, which is a good thing.  We want to have the same scale for consumption and regeneration so that when the driver accelerates at 60 kW and then lifts off the acceleration pedal and regenerates at 60 kW, the trailing needle will have the same length to show that the same amount of energy was consumed and then recuperated, minus friction.

A problem

The problem I have with the geometric scale this time is that it is too sensitive. I have yet to drive a Tesla myself, but in watching people on Youtube filming themselves driving Teslas, I've noticed that as soon as they start driving, the consumption needle goes halfway up the dial; remember, this is a big car and it takes a lot of energy to get it going. So once again the driver is getting the wrong impression, namely, that accelerating at 60 kW represents approximately 50% of the total kW output of the car. This is wrong, because 60 kW out of 240 kW represents 25% of the possible output of a 60 kWh Model S.

Regeneration indicator next to the gear selector

Regeneration indicator next to the gear selector

Drivers are then getting the impression that the Model S consumes much more than it actually does and, conversely, that it regenerates much more than it actually does. A 60 kW regeneration is still only a quarter of what the car can really output (240 kW), not half of it as based on the needle length.

I understand Tesla had to use the same scale for both consumption and regeneration; since the regeneration scales had to use the remaining space down to the gear selector, they had no choice but to go that route.  

The second problem
(85 kWh)

+40kW and -30kW are 2 intervals away from the 0 kW

+40kW and -30kW are 2 intervals away from the 0 kW

There is an additional problem, this time, with the display of the 85 kWh battery car (image at right).

Because the energy consumption needs to go to 320 kW instead of 240 kW and still maintain the geometric scale, Tesla had to make the consumption scale different than the regeneration scale. This means that accelerating at 40 kW will show a trailing orange needle with a length of 2 intervals and the corresponding 2 intervals of regeneration will be equivalent to only 30 kW, again giving the wrong information to the driver’s reptilian brain.

A solution

The solution (which you'll have guessed if you are still reading this “short article”) is to change the scale to a linear scale in order to respect:

  • the 24-slice grid;
  • the linear scale for the reptilian brain; and 
  • the fact that the 60 kWh car can output around 240 kW.

We get this display with a 50 kW increment that goes up to 250 kW.

60 kWh car with linear scale display during regeneration

60 kWh car with linear scale display during regeneration

Since the regeneration scale needs to be the same as the consumption scale, we end up with a much smaller regeneration area, which is a perfect representation of reality. Regenerating power recuperates only roughly 20-25% of the maximum output of the battery.

We can solve the second problem for the 85 kWh car the same way, 

Proposed 85 kWh car display

Proposed 85 kWh car display

but now using a 60 kW increment scale that goes up to 300 kW.

In both of these solutions, for the 60 kWh car and the 85 kWh car, the maximum kWh number shown on my scales does not represent exactly the maximum output the car is capable of. I think this is a small price to pay in order to have linear scales for the energy indicator.

I created a new problem

Free space problem between gear selector and regen indicator

Free space problem between gear selector and regen indicator

The problem I've created is... empty space between the gear selector (for lack of a better term) and the end of the regeneration scale. 

However, free space is not really a problem in interface design - it actually represents opportunity.

So what additional information can we give the driver in that space?

 

Another solution

Proposed battery temperature indicator when the battery is too hot or too cold

Proposed battery temperature indicator when the battery is too hot or too cold

Reading the Tesla forums, I realized that some drivers did not understand how the battery pack temperature can impact both the maximum energy the car can output and the amount of regeneration the car can take.

Tesla notifies the driver that the battery pack is too hot by showing a dotted yellow line limiting the maximum energy the car can consume. When the battery pack is too cold, the same yellow line caps regeneration to an amount lower than 50 or
60 kW.

Battery pack temperature is important and drivers who have a cold battery pack are not made aware of how fast the pack is reheating while driving, so I think it would be nice to show them.

The white line represents the current battery pack temperature and the two yellow zones would show when the pack is either too cold (at the bottom) or too hot (at the top). Watching the white needle move through time would give the driver an idea of when the pack would go back to normal temperature.

This temperature display would only be shown when the battery pack is outside normal temperature range and would be hidden when the battery pack is at normal operating temperature.

Conclusion

Redesigned speedomter/energy indicator using linear scales

In conclusion, unless there is something I am missing here, Tesla’s use of variable scales (in the case of the speedometer) or geometric scales (in the case of the energy indicator) is giving Tesla Model S drivers the wrong impression.

Switching to linear scales fixes these problems, and in the case of the energy indicator, also provides a new opportunity to provide some useful information to the driver.

I would really like to hear comments from Tesla drivers who have experienced the problems I explored in this post.

And I would also love to hear from Tesla to explain the reasoning behind these design decisions.

Happy driving!