Tesla's touchscreen gear selector presents no 'compliance concerns,' NHTSA says

Tesla has certified that every part of the updated Model S meets all current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
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It may not break any rules, but it doesn't seem totally user friendly at first glance.


Despite mixed feelings in the auto industry over how the updated Tesla Model S presents the ability to shift into gears via a screen, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told Roadshow on Monday the system presents "no compliance concerns."

Videos of the updated Model S electric sedan and its touchscreen shifter system surfaced last week, which prompted questions about how safe the operation is for motorists. The driver "shifts" the car into drive or reverse by pulling and dragging an icon on the touchscreen. You can see the icon in the top left on the screen in the photo above. The neutral gear is located deeper in menus, while it's not yet clear how the car shifts into park. 

In a statement, NHTSA told Roadshow it's aware of the system Tesla developed and that "a properly configured transmission shift control operated by means of a touch screen interface would not violate Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards."

"Also, Tesla has certified compliance with all applicable safety standards," NHTSA said. "At this time, there are no known compliance concerns related to the shift control configuration."

Watch this: Tesla's touchscreen gear selector raises concerns in the auto industry

Under federal law, all automakers must self-certify that a vehicle meets all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, which Tesla has done for the updated Model S and other vehicles that will use this system. Owners are always able to report safety concerns to NHTSA, however, which may prompt a review of the self-certification process.

CEO Elon Musk first opened this particular can of worms back in January after revealing the new Model S and "guesses drive direction based on what obstacles it sees, context & nav map" in a tweet. Tesla does not operate a public relations department to field requests for comment, and has not elaborated further as to how exactly this would work.

But, for now, NHTSA says it's A-OK. As for the other controversial part of the Model S and Model X, the yoke-style steering wheel, we haven't yet heard whether the government agency made a decision on the component. NHTSA declined to comment further on the yoke.

Refreshed Tesla Model S has a Knight Rider steering wheel

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