Tesla's operating system has evolved slowly over the years and has managed to stay ahead of the curve. While vehicles that integrate Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto are improving, most run the platforms alongside a proprietary car system. In this case, two is rarely better than one and often leads to a disconnect in functions.
One exception of course is the Android Automotive platform that brings a version of Android natively into the car without relying on a phone to power it. Even here though, the system doesn't feel quite finished.
Electric Vehicles like the Tesla Model S Plaid feel as much about the entertainment as they are about the driving, and that's not a bad thing.
That's not to say that Tesla's solution is perfect but the combination of a singular OS for everything and some fun quirky additions make it the best system I've used to date. Here are three things I believe it does better than other in-car OS solutions.
The first thing that really struck me about Tesla's navigation was that it felt like it had been designed around driving an electric car. The trip planner automatically builds Supercharger stops into longer journeys, so you don't need to think about where you will charge.
Proprietary car navigation has also started to introduce this but due to the assortment of chargers on offer, it's often not as clear as Tesla's. Having one system that is able to access the car's diagnostics and battery level helps too. This problem is ultimately down to the lack of reliable third-party chargers, and conversely, Tesla's impressive charger network. However, it currently makes life much easier for the driver.
The ability to add stops along the route is a simple but useful feature that Tesla offers that not everyone else does. I'm also a big fan of the automatic navigation option that predicts where you want to go based on the time and your location.
In addition to an impressive video streaming and game arcade functionality in the Tesla, it also includes something called Toybox.
Toybox is a collection of functions that exist purely for fun. It's the kind of thing that you might expect to find hidden in some code, but on the Tesla OS, it's right there for everyone to access in the main menu.
There are currently 10 functions listed in the Tesla Toybox for the Model 3. The Boombox uses the car's external speaker when the car is in Park to broadcast either your voice (with Megaphone), music you have on your system, or a range of sound effects. The Light Show allows you to set a light sequence to music and even dance by opening and closing various doors and windows.
Other interesting functions include the DJ tool, TRAX which lets you create your own songs and Sketchpad for basic drawing on the touchscreen and Romance, which provides a virtual fireplace.
3. A fully integrated system
The big benefit of a single OS for the car is that it's easier to control everything from one place. To be fair, most new EVs now at least appear to do this pretty well by allowing you to access climate controls, charging and vehicle dynamics from the same screen as the entertainment, but if you are using CarPlay or Android Auto you are still using separate systems.
As i've mentioned, the exception to this is the Android Automotive system that's used in the Polestar, Volvo and Hummer EV. Having this system in place has the most potential to knock Tesla off its perch but right now the number of models using it is low and most still run an older build.