Tesla Model 3 gets fancy physical buttons with this Indiegogo accessory

    Ever wished the Tesla had more physical buttons? The massive displays that adorn all Tesla models are nice to look at, but can be a hassle to use when you’re driving. And even though Tesla cars offer voice commands, they leave a lot to be desired: The Tesla will often misunderstand you, and some fairly obvious commands, like changing the acceleration mode, simply don’t work.

    An Indiegogo-funded gadget called the Ctrl-Bar(Opens in a new window), created by a Norway-based startup called Greenmission(Opens in a new window), aims to change that. It’s a bar with two knobs and two buttons, designed to sit under the Tesla Model 3/Y display, offering easy access to oft-used features. For example, the knobs allow you to easily change your car’s temperature, while the programmable buttons can be used for a number of functions, such as turning the seat heaters, defrost mode, or dog mode on and off.

    Greenmission is not without any experience; the company currently sells a wireless charger for the Tesla Model S and X. Just like that charger, the Ctrl-Bar is connected to the car with a hidden USB cable. On the other hand, the Ctrl-Bar only works with Tesla Model 3 and Y; the Model S and X aren’t mentioned in the Indiegogo campaign.

    The Ctrl-Bar is designed to look like a natural extension of Tesla’s display, but it doesn’t communicate with the car directly. Instead, it uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connection to talk to your phone, which must be running Greenmission’s app, and it needs to be connected to the internet. When you click on a button or turn a knob, the command is first sent to your phone, which then communicates with the Tesla API to get the car to do your bidding.

    This leads us to the potentially most problematic aspect of the Ctrl-Bar: The inevitable lag between issuing a command and seeing it actually happen on the car’s display. Greenmission has partially solved this by including a display on the Ctrl-Bar which immediately shows the result of your action, while the actual command should be performed by the car in “less than a second.” When you’re clicking on buttons and turning knobs in succession, “less than a second” can be quite a long wait, but we’ll see how this works in real life once Ctrl-Bar is finalized (it’s currently in development stage).

    The Ctrl-Bar brings other perks, such as additional LED lighting for your car, speed trap warnings, and potentially more, as Greenmission says new features will be made available via over-the-air updates.

    The project has currently raised a little over $18,000, with a modest fixed goal of $27,216, and it has 20 more days to get there. If you’re interested, you can support the project and get the Ctrl-Bar (when it becomes available) for $260.

    The Ctrl-Bar is not the first accessory of its kind; the S3XY buttons(Opens in a new window), for example, are similar, though with far fewer options. The Ctrl-Bar, however, looks so natural under the Model 3/Y display that it makes you wonder why Tesla hasn’t included a set of physical buttons from the get go. Tesla Model 3 reviewers have long complained about the lack of physical buttons; an early Consumer Reports review said that the car’s touchscreen can cause driver’s distraction as “each act forces drivers to take their eyes off the road and a hand off the steering wheel.” The number of physical buttons in Tesla Model 3 and Y remained unchanged since the launch, but perhaps an accessory such as the Ctrl-Bar can alleviate this issue for some drivers.

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