The Tesla Model 3’s dashboard doesn’t look like any other car’s, and Elon Musk knows it. On Friday night, not for the first time, he explained why: it’s all part of a plan for a new, autonomous driving experience.
Musk officially debuted the company’s first affordably-priced electric vehicle, the Model 3, at a massive unveiling event outside the company’s Fremont factory on Friday night. After rolling onto the stage in a cherry-red Model 3, one of the first looks Musk gave the audience of the new vehicle was a short video showing off the interior of the car, which he essentially said was designed to be autonomous.
“We aimed for a very simple, clean design, because in the future — really, the future being now — the cars will be increasingly autonomous,” Musk said. “So you won’t really need to look at an instrument panel all that often. You’ll be able to do whatever you want: you’ll be able to watch a movie, talk to friends, go to sleep.”
This is pretty much what Musk has been trying to say all along. As the first rumors and photos of the Model 3 started to leak out, customers and fans started to obsess over the vehicle’s strangely sparse interior. The chief concern was the lack of an analog speedometer, and indeed, a complete lack of an instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. Musk, meanwhile, insisted that the car’s dashboard was just fine. For a while, the prevailing theory was that the Model 3 would come with a HUD, or heads up display, projected onto the windshield, but that rumor died out as the car entered production, especially when a Tesla engineer broke down how the center screen worked last weekend. Autonomy, it turns out, was the reason behind all of the madness, and it’s highly likely that Tesla carries over this design strategy to future vehicles, like the still-shrouded Model Y SUV.
Tesla sees the Model 3 as the first step in the company’s transition from a luxury car brand to an all-encompassing clean energy company that produces mass market vehicles in conjunction with individual solar power solutions and utility-scale energy storage. But on Friday, it was all about the Model 3 — and after tonight, there are 30 new owners getting a first-hand look at the car’s sleek interior.