Here’s how Tesla’s new Auto Shift works


The Model S will shift itself and this man is excited about it.


Tesla showed off a new feature of its refreshed Model S called “Auto Shift” during its Plaid event on Thursday, and CEO Elon Musk’s explainer left a little something to be desired when it comes to understanding just how it works, but maybe we can help.

Now, in Elon’s description, he makes the system seem borderline magical, like the car just knows what you want to do and does it. In practice, it’s both more simple and more complex than that.

So the big question is, how does the car understand your intentions? Well, according to a really great explainer published by Teslarati, it’s all about meeting conditions. For example, to automatically shift from Park to Drive, the car must see:

  • That Auto Shift out of Park is enabled in the vehicle settings.
  • The vehicle is already in Park.
  • The driver’s seat belt is fastened.
  • The brake pedal is being pressed.
  • All doors and trunks are closed.
  • The console gear selector isn’t activated.

It’s similar for Reverse, because the car will sense something directly in front of it and automatically select Reverse rather than Drive. It also incorporates a geotagging system into this to help it remember where specific events happen, to essentially learn your habits.

If you don’t want to use the Auto Shift feature — because, for example, you don’t trust Tesla’s new feature roll-outs to be 100% bug-free — you can still use the touchscreen gearshift that has you swipe and press to get Drive, Reverse, Neutral and Park. Finally, there’s a gearshift system built into the center console, because, you know, redundancy.

What happens if you try and do something that doesn’t meet the conditions for a shift outlined by Tesla? According to the Model S’ owner’s manual, the car will sound a chime, and an alert will pop up on one of the screens. Also, it won’t shift.

Now, does this sound cool in theory? Yeah, kinda. Does it sound like something that anyone would be mad that their vehicle doesn’t have? No, not really. 

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