Update 2013.02.12: Chris Ziegler, The Verge:
[…] in place of an average car’s array of buttons, knobs, and small displays, the Model S has an enormous 17-inch capacitive touchscreen mounted vertically down the middle of the dashboard, angled slightly toward the driver for viewability and ease of reach. Perhaps more than the newfangled electric drivetrain, nothing worried me more about the Model S — nothing brought out more of the curmudgeonly “get off my lawn” mentality — than this touchscreen. Nearly every component in a modern car is designed to enhance safety and keep drivers better focused on the task of driving; traditional knobs and buttons help drivers keep their eyes on the road because they instinctively come to know where things are. They can feel out a volume control here, a temperature control there without having to look down.
Tesla chief designer Franz von Holzhausen traded safety for the convenience of 3G-based UI updates. I’m a big fan of good displays, but Tesla made a big mistake replacing knobs with the 17-inch LCD. I like knobs because it lets me keep my eyes on the road. With the LCD you have to take your eyes off the road to see what’s on the display, tap on the buttons or move the sliders, and confirm that it did what you wanted it to do. That’s a safety hazard. A better option, with UI upgradability included, would have been to use a traditional landscape oriented LCD for navigation and replaced dumb knobs with smarter ones. I’m imagining Nest-like knobs. Cool and safe.