Maps now get the best real estate—the top half of the touchscreen, in the driver’s line of vision—by default. Responses to pinching and scrolling are fairly speedy, and the icons at the top of the screen (energy use, phone, web browser, etc) auto-hide if you don’t touch them for a while. That means more space for the map, but also extra eyes-off-the-road time for the driver who must tap the screen to reveal the buttons, then tap the option she’s looking for.
The highlight of Version 8.0 is the upgraded Autopilot system. Much of this work deals with how the car flags obstacles, but Tesla refreshed this interface, too. It enlarged the small steering wheel icon that indicates when the Autosteer function, which keeps the car in its lane, is engaged. The warning system that bugs drivers who take their hands off the wheel for too long now includes a pulse of white around the instrument cluster, along with the text and audio warnings. And now, if you ignore warnings to keep your hands on the wheel more than three times an hour, you’ll have to pull over and put the car in park to re-engage the auto steering system.
While the world is anxious about Tesla’s answer to safety concerns, Version 8.0 is introducing a smarter system for flagging obstacles and a cleaner, sleeker interface that takes into account the driver’s field of vision. But as Wired writer Jack Stewart describes, “Maybe the most remarkable thing about the update is that it simply shows up on the car, like an over-the-air update to your smartphone. No visit to the dealer, no wishing you’d waited to buy your car until the latest version hit the market. This means your car gets better over time, and recalls get way easier.” Tesla’s software update could be a clear signal about the future of the auto industry.