Much has been said about the newest Tesla Model S. That's especially true for the insane Plaid model, which boasts 1,020 horsepower (761 kilowatts) and can reach 60 mph in around two seconds flat. However, all that power and performance mean nothing if you can't use it, right?
We pose that question because one of the more controversial features in the current-generation Model S is the lack of any tactile control for shifting from park to forward or reverse. Instead, control is relegated to to the super sedan's massive touchscreen, or drivers can rely on the AutoPilot-based Auto-Shift setup to shift out of park. In that instance, the car analyzes a plethora of data to decide whether you want to go forward or reverse. But what happens if the center screen isn't working and Auto-Shift can't make up its mind?
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Tesla thought of that, and Doug Demuro's latest deep dive video happens to show us as much in a Model S Plaid. At the base of the dash where it meets the center console, below the inductive cell phone charger, you'll find a very faint but familiar set of letters. PRND span a small strip, separated by the hazard flasher indicator in the middle. Of course, the letters stand for Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive, and in the event the touchscreen flakes out, the Model S can still be driven by pushing the corresponding letter. It's a failsafe system literally hidden in plain sight.
We know what you're thinking right now, and the answer is no. You can't use this panel to shift out of park or between the speeds all the time, as it's only activated in the event the touchscreen fails. Presumably, this electrically controlled backup system is entirely independent of the big screen and any power failures that might result, because as far as we know, there is no manual way to choose forward or reverse in the current Model S. Such is the price for a vehicle interior that is arguably the most extreme interpretation of minimalism currently used in a production car.
Still, it's nice to see the old Prindle phrase alive and kicking in the newest Tesla, even if it's just a backup system.