“I think generally all input is error,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk when he explained the Model S Plaid’s Auto Shift feature. Tesla removed the stalks when reinventing the Tesla Model S Plaid’s design. “If you have to do something that the car could have done already, that should be taken care of; the software should just do it,” Musk remarked.
This approach was evident in the Model S Plaid’s Auto Shift feature, which uses software to determine if the vehicle should be in Drive, Park, Neutral, or Reverse. The new Tesla Model S manual goes further into detail about Auto Shift and the vehicle’s gears.
Touchscreen Gear Shift
For drivers who would still prefer shifting gears manually, the new Model S has a gear strip available on the car’s touchscreen under “Controls.” The gear strip will be displayed on the left side of the touchscreen when a driver presses the brake pedal while parked.
- Drive – Swipe up on the gear strip on the touchscreen. Drivers can only shift into “D” when the Model S is stopped or moving less than 5 mph or 8 km/h in Reverse.
- Reverse – Swipe down on the gear strip. Drivers can only shift into “R” when the Model S is stopped or moving less than 5 mph or 8 km/h in Drive. Drivers can manually close the park assist view on the touchscreen by touching the “X” in the upper corner.
- Neutral: To shift into Neutral, drivers should touch the “Controls,” then press and hold the Neutral icon until the Model S engages the “N” gear. When the Model S is traveling over 5 mph or 8 km/h and swipes up or down on the gear strip, a Neutral icon will appear at the top of the gear strip that drivers can engage.
Model S Park
The Park button is only displayed when the brake pedal is pressed. Shifting into Park is allowed when the vehicle’s driving speed is less than 5 mph or 8km/h.
The Model S will automatically shift to Park when it observes signs that drivers are about to exit the vehicle, like when the driver unbuckles his/her seat belt and the car is stopped. Other instances the Model S will shift into Park would be when the driver’s door is open or the vehicle hasn’t moved within one minute of shifting into Drive gear.
Auto Shift Out of Park
Auto Shift Out of Park allows the Model S to shift out of Park on its own, providing more convenience. In the Model S owner’s manual, Tesla notes that Auto Shift out of Park is a BETA feature and is disabled by default.
“When Auto Shift out of Park is enabled, Model S is designed to use inputs from various sensors to automatically select a driving gear when you are ready to drive. The selected gear is displayed on the instrument panel when the driver’s door is closed, and the seatbelt is buckled,” said the manual.
Drivers can override the selected gear by pressing the brake pedal, then use the touchscreen to choose the gear they prefer. Drivers must always press the brake pedal to shift out of Park.
Tesla cautions drivers to follow the instructions on the panel before pressing on the accelerator after confirming their gear selection. The Model S will not shift out of Park if it is still plugged into a charging port.
Model S in Drive Gear
The Model S automatically selects the driving gear when the following conditions are met:
- Auto Shift out of Park is enabled (touch Controls > Pedals & Steering > Auto Shift out of Park).
- The vehicle is in Park.
- The driver’s seat belt is fastened.
- The brake pedal is pressed.
- All doors and trunks are closed.
- The gear selector on the center console is not activated.
Emergency Gear Shift Controls
Drivers can use the gear selector on the center console in the unlikely event that the touchscreen is unavailable and the gear shift is unaccessible. The letters “P,” “R,” “N,” and “D” are displayed in the center console and can be activated when pressed. The frunk, trunk, and doors must be closed to select a gear in the center console.
Tesla notes that the gear selector in the center console activates when the touchscreen is unavailable or the Model S in Valet or Transport Mode. Otherwise, drivers must press the letter buttons to activate the gear selector.
“If you try to shift into a gear that the current driving speed prohibits, the instrument panel displays an alert, a chime sounds, and the gear does not change,” Tesla states in the manual.
As a side note, Tesla stated that drivers could also activate the gear selector by briefly pressing the scroll buttons on the yoke steering wheel simultaneously. Holding the scroll buttons for a longer time would activate the gear selector in the center console and restart the touchscreen as well.