What Stood Out Most in the Tesla Model Y’s New Software, V11.0

tesla-model-y-2021-08-interior-infotainment-system-sedan 2021 Tesla Model Y Software V11.0 | photo by Joe Bruzek

The Tesla Model Y’s latest software, Version 11.0, launched in late December with new features and a revamped user interface. Tesla claimed to simplify the look and experience, but like a corporate memo sent out on a Friday afternoon, “simplification” may not be as good as it sounds. Now that we’ve lived with the system and observed what it giveth and taketh away in our long-term Model Y test car, we’ve compiled some observations on the hits and misses.

Time flies in the world of software, of course, so it’s possible Tesla will unveil an update on 11.0 in the near future. Once that happens, we’ll link in this space to our latest thoughts.

Related: We Bought a 2021 Tesla Model Y

Customizable Application Launcher

tesla-model-y-2021-06-interior-infotainment-system-sedan 2021 Tesla Model Y Software V11.0 | photo by Joe Bruzek

There’s a lot to unpack here, but the customizability of the user interface is a good thing, and it’s rarely widespread enough to make your car as customizable as a smartphone. Version 11.0 isn’t that. The user interface most notably gains four customizable tiles that lock user-selected apps to the app launcher at the bottom of the Model Y’s 15-inch touchscreen.

It can elevate frequently used apps to always live at the bottom of the screen for quick access. What’s also thoughtful is that these apps stick with the selected user profile, so a different driver can preserve selections in their profile along with seat position. It’s unfortunate, then, that many features are not pinnable. Spotify, messaging, camera and efficiency monitoring can go in the tiles. Heated seats? Nope. What about the Toybox that lets you turn any seat into a whoopie cushion? You betcha. (Flatulence enthusiasts rejoice — quietly, please.)

The screen appears a bit cleaner because there are fewer overall feature and application tiles at the bottom (nine versus 11, excluding menu icons), but features that used to permanently live on the bottom rail now require multiple steps to access, like those heated seats, or the wiper-blade and defrost settings. Plus, the swipeable tile at the bottom of the car status display, which displayed tire pressure and trip information, is gone; that information now lives elsewhere. A new automatic seat heater can adjust heat and cooling based on cabin temperature, though cabin temperature doesn’t always correlate to whether we want heated seats on or off.

We often lauded our Tesla for making digitally accessed features shallow versus other cars that bury such controls in submenus, so losing certain features we had at our fingertips is a significant loss in functionality. The customization change is a promising one, but it isn’t complete until owners can truly make the vehicle their own.

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tesla-model-y-2021-23-interior-infotainment-system-sedan 2021 Tesla Model Y Software V11.0 | photo by Joe Bruzek

Blind Spot Camera

The Model Y’s blind spot monitoring system doesn’t work like most systems, where a little amber light illuminates in the side-view mirror to alert you of a car in your blind spot. There are no mirror notifications; instead, the system shows when it’s a bad time to change lanes by shading the digitized car display and surrounding lane markings in red. The update adds available functionality for the blind spot camera, which shows your blind spots through a side-view camera when the turn signal is activated. It’s similar to what certain Hyundai models (as well as those of the affiliated Kia and Genesis brands) offer in their blind spot camera systems.

The camera feed already existed, viewable in the main camera app. The difference is it now activates with the turn signal and is visible in the lower left of the screen, where the displays for tire pressure and trip information used to live.

It’s a resourceful addition, but it doesn’t improve lane-changing confidence because the displayed image is too low on the screen, below even the original blind spot warning information. We’d like to see the location of the display become customizable, or at least fixed closer to the top of the display. What makes Hyundai’s execution more useful is that it’s displayed in the instrument panel closer to where your eyes are pointing; the Model Y, of course, has no instrument panel.

tesla-model-y-2021-22-interior-infotainment-system-sedan 2021 Tesla Model Y Software V11.0 | photo by Joe Bruzek

What Else Changed?

The updated user interface and blind spot camera from Version 11.0 are the most notable changes we’ve observed in everyday driving, but other features have been added or modified. Those include:

  • Tesla Light Show: This lets users program their own light show using the Tesla’s exterior lights and xLights, a free open-source software.
  • Updated navigation: The update can hide map details for a cleaner look and reorder multiple trip destinations.
  • Games: Add the original Sonic the Hedgehog game (controller required), as well as Sudoku and multiplayer support for The Battle of Polytopia.
  • TikTok: In-car TikTok is available on the touchscreen.
  • Boombox Megaphone: Newer Teslas have an external speaker as part of the pedestrian warning system — that’s the spaceship humming sound you hear at low speeds — and you can now use it to project your voice through the car’s external speaker.
  • Subwoofer control: A new subwoofer audio setting gives individual control to subwoofer output.

Another step toward improving the user interface might be coming later in 2022, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk responded to a Tesla owner’s request for improvements to Version 11.0 by tweeting in December that “many UI improvements [are] coming.” We’ve also seen reports that consumer feedback has been heard from within the company. We’re anxiously awaiting what all of that will entail.

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