I have a 2012 Tesla Model S Signature P85 and it just got a whole new user interface with new features almost 6 years after hitting the street.
With its new version 9 firmware update rolling out this week, Tesla is proving again that its software approach is putting the user experience of other automakers to shame.
It’s not perfect. There are plenty of things that could still use some work and some features that could be added, but that’s the beauty of Tesla’s over-the-air software updates: they can improve on their user interface any time.
There are some limitations. Tesla has been gradually improving its onboard computers and some of the older versions don’t get the same features as the newer ones, but you still get some improvements.
As I said, I have a 6-year-old Tesla that is still getting a little better and my Model 3, which is only a few weeks old, is also getting some improvements.
It’s hard not to be excited by that.
Ever since Tesla popularized OTA updates in vehicles, automakers have announced plans to also introduce the technology in their lineups. But it has yet to become common even six years after the California-based company started doing it.
Here’s a quick look at the evolution of Tesla’s user interface over the years (v6 in 2014 – v7 in 2015 – v8 in 2016 and now v9 in 2018):
Tesla is increasingly making the user interface to be more computer-like or even similar to a smartphone or tablet experience.
It’s especially true with this update, which features a new app launcher and each app appears as a window inside the main screen instead of splitting the screen in half:
The whole user interface is extremely intuitive and anyone who has used a touchscreen can generally quickly find what they are looking for.
While v9 is not perfect and still has a few weird glitches, I’d also argue that Tesla’s navigation is the best onboard navigation system in any vehicle ever:
That said, I can understand why some would prefer to use third-party apps, like Apple Maps or Google Maps, through app mirroring systems like CarPlay and Android Auto.
The lack of app mirroring is probably the biggest weakness of Tesla’s onboard user experience, but I also think that Tesla is slowly closing that gap with every software update.
For example, the integration of map app sharing from mobile to the vehicle is a good example of a step in the right direction with version 9.
Everything else, like managing all the settings, feels extremely cumbersome in most modern vehicles, but it’s a breeze on Tesla’s center display.
Here are screenshots of all the settings in Tesla’s version 9 software update:
I also feel now that Tesla harmonized the user interfaces of Model S and Model X with Model 3’s through this update, the automaker will now be able to focus on deploying new features and improvements for all cars in future iterations of version 9.
What do you think? Do you have any feature requests? Let us know in the comment section below.
Side note: Tesla’s v9 update is currently very slowly being rolled out in North America with an apparent priority to Model S and Model X vehicles. Only a few Model 3’s appear to have received the update. Don’t freak out if you are still stuck at 2018.36. We are trying to get more information and we will report back as soon as we can.