I know by now we’ve all seen that Simpsons meme where Apu, labeled “Weird Nerds” is throwing himself in the path of a bullet shot by a ginger-haired burglar, helpfully labeled “Valid Criticism,” that was directed at the person working behind a convenience store counter, labeled “Elon Musk.” What’s amazing is how often this silly meme gets revalidated, as it very much does in the response to an article published today that takes the bold stance that having all of your instruments go black while driving is not ideal. Elon’s unpaid minions on Reddit are not having it.
The original article was by Chad Kirchner on EV Pulse, and it even seems to be classified as an opinion article, so if you feel there’s a lot of nuance and complexity to how one could feel about all of their controls blacking out while driving at 75 mph, you’re validated by that “opinion” tag.
Kirchner’s opinion seems to be that having all the controls and displays randomly black out is “absolutely unacceptable for a modern car,” and, you know what, I think that’s a pretty reasonable opinion.
I mean, sure, it’s not necessarily life-threatening, and I certainly have had similar things happen plenty of times in my old shitboxes — dash lights all go out at night because of some stupid short, or a speedometer quits working because the cable breaks, or maybe I just yanked it out because it was squeaking so damn much, or a fuel gauge suddenly decides the halfway mark means empty now, like on my Yugo, or any number of other things that cause the loss of some portion of the car’s instruments.
The difference is, though, those are things that happen on old shitboxes, not brand-new, state-of-the-art cars. And, even if something in the dash goes on one of those sad little cars, not everything goes down, because those rotten eggs are not in one basket, as they are with the Tesla Model 3's universal, possibly Dr. Bronner-inspired All-One screen.
Kirchner’s situation was pretty straightforward: He was driving with Autopilot engaged at 75 mph on a highway, listening to his phone connected via Bluetooth, when suddenly the whole system crashed, leaving a completely blank screen.
So, no speed, no navigation, no range information and the HVAC system reset to some median level as well. Autopilot seemed to remain active.
He states that “several minutes” later, the system rebooted itself, and all was basically fine. This was hardly a near-death experience, but I think it’s safe to say it’s shitty behavior for a new car, period.
The r/teslamotors page at Reddit, though, seems to disagree. To them, it seems, having all your instruments black out is totally fine, and only a real candy-ass shithead would even mention it at all. Let’s look through some of these comments:
While I suppose this is technically true, since any digital dash is driven by a computer and computers can, potentially crash, or physical issues like broken cables or any number of other issues can happen, it’s not like this makes what happened here any better.
Try telling someone who just stubbed their toe on a jackstand that there’s lots of other things that toes can be stubbed on and see how much better they feel. I bet they’ll thank you.
Plus, this is a bit different in that there aren’t really any other cars that cram everything into one display, so losing it—which is also a lot more likely thanks to the over-the-air upgrade system that, while offering a whole lot of benefits, also has the potential to introduce many more points of possible failure—is a good bit worse on a Model 3 than most cars with digital dashes.
Again, though, this is hardly an argument that this doesn’t suck and shouldn’t be addressed.
Also, I just don’t think the article is “fluff or fear-mongering.” The whole dash went out, dude reported on that. That’s what’s supposed to happen if the guy’s job is to talk about using a Tesla Model 3.
Then we have the Time Lord here:
Sure, why trust what’s said in an article when you can just decide new information you prefer instead? Guy wrote “several minutes,” but of course he meant one minute, really, because this dude can tell when people lie about time, thanks to an enchanted watch he swallowed on a middle-school trip to the Smithsonian.
Here’s one that starts with some biting sarcasm:
I’m not sure “innovation” was the problem here, as much as it was having all the controls fail without warning. Maybe that’s innovative, though?
There are several comments like this one, too:
No one said anything about crashing because you don’t know if your indicator is on. Nobody. Also, nobody ever said they’d really like a car where the dash just randomly disappears occasionally.
Some people, at least, are trying to help with clever ideas:
Huh! A little, mechanically-driven display that indicates one’s speed! Sort of a, I don’t know, a speed-meter! Maybe they could give it a cool name like a Speed-O-Meter! I wonder if anything like that exists?
There’s at least some rational people in the mix, though:
This, at least, makes sense. There’s zero reason why this sort of issue shouldn’t be written about or commented on or whatever. It’s not just Tesla — if there was anyone making a car and the whole dash randomly shuts off, then that’s worth letting people know about.
This strange fixation that any criticism of something that happens in a Tesla has to be justified and defended and minimized is weird, just deeply, uncomfortably weird.
We all have our favorite carmakers, but as soon as you find yourself feeling personally wounded whenever they make a mistake, you need to seriously re-think what your priorities in life are.
Idiotic brand loyalty is by no means anything new in the car world, but it seems like Tesla has somehow taken this to a new level. I guess Tesla deserves credit for inspiring such loyalty, but at some point, no matter how much you love the company, you need to be able to just accept that something like losing all dash controls is lousy, and the only reasonable response is to pressure Tesla to get that shit fixed.
I should mention, though, that not all Tesla owners are alike, and there are some owners who do seem willing to complain about things with world-class levels of fussiness, like this guy talking about the latest software update:
These Tesla owners, though, don’t seem as vocal when it comes to outside criticism.
Pretending that problems aren’t problems won’t help Tesla make better cars, and, perhaps more tragically, won’t make Elon love you.
I’m sorry, but that’s just how it is.