Travels With Wylie — My Tesla Model Y Goes On Its First Road Trip

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Wylie — the Tesla Model Y my wife and I bought a month ago — went on its first road trip this week, from Fort Pierce on the Atlantic side of Florida to Englewood on the Gulf side, a distance of 152 miles. This is the sort of thing we didn’t do when our only car was a Nissan LEAF because it meant renting a car for the trip. Now that we have a car that can travel well over 300 miles without charging, we can go places and do things we couldn’t do before.

You longtime Tesla owners will snicker at our lack of familiarity with our Tesla. It has much to teach us, but we are slow learners. About 100 miles of the trip was on arrow-straight two-lane roads. On the way west, my wife tried Autosteer for the first time. It was cool until a flotilla of tractor trailers came our way. She simply didn’t trust the technology enough to believe the car wasn’t about to plant itself in the path of a speeding Peterbilt, so she turned it off.  I confess from my vantage point in the passenger seat, I was none too confident in it either, so we decided to leave that for another day.

One cool feature is we have discovered how to download podcasts. Our favorite is Boston Public Radio that takes place on WGBH radio every day between 11 and 2. It’s 3 hours long, so we got to listen to the whole thing during our 3 hour and 12 minute journey.

The ride in the Model Y is supple and controlled. I have read online that the suspension is harsh but haven’t found that to be the case. When we picked up the car, the steering was set on Sport. That was a little too taut for our tastes so we switched to Standard. That also is more direct than we are used to. We are going to try Comfort this week to see how we like that. What we do like very much is the ability to adjust the steering wheel up and down, and in and out. We can find the right height, seatback rake, and lumbar support for each of us and save those settings to our individual profiles. I realize other cars do this, but it is a first for us and we really enjoy it.

The regen is set to Hold. It makes true one-pedal driving possible, which takes a few days to get used to. After that, it becomes instinctive. The only problem is we may forget to use the brake pedal when we drive other cars! The system keeps the car stationary on inclines whether heading up or down. The driver can select the Creep mode to mimic how a conventional car with an autotragic transmission behaves, but why? That would be like buying a Model T and adding an accessory that leaves horse droppings on the road behind you as you go.

We have learned how to set the trunk lid so it doesn’t open high enough to hit the crossbeam of our carport and how to instruct the car to fold the mirrors in when we approach our regular parking space. We have told the car to close the windows when we walk away and to give a quite little toot when it locks the doors. So far, we limited accessories to a rubber cargo mat for the trunk and a drop-in organizer for the frunk.

The friends we were visiting have a dryer in their garage, so we ordered an adapter for our charging cable that would allow us to charge the battery at their house overnight. It worked exactly as advertised. Taking them for a test drive elicited excited chortles when I mashed the exhilerator. People just can’t help giggling when they experience that level of acceleration for the first time.

While we were away, our Tesla app notified us of a software update, so we connected to the internet, downloaded the new software, and installed it while we were having dinner. I expected a pop-up notice about the update when I got in the next morning, but none appeared. I guess I will have to go fiddle with the touchscreen to learn more about it. I read online that it includes a new video display of cars on either side when the turn signal is activated but I didn’t notice anything like that on the drive home.

Heading east, I tried the cruise control, but it wanted to go faster than I was comfortable with. I tried Autopilot, but it claimed I was going too fast for it to activate. Clearly I have much to learn about this technology. Perhaps some time spent watching YouTube videos will help me understand the process. My wife and I are both reluctant to fool with too many settings while we are driving, for fear that the car may suddenly careen into a ditch if we choose the wrong setting.

While driving yesterday, messages kept popping up on the touchscreen telling me to take control of the steering wheel, even though Autopilot and cruise control were off and I was traveling in a straight line with both hands on the wheel. At one point, a message came up on the screen saying lane departure control was unavailable, although it might reactivate the next time I drove the car. Sometimes, an oncoming tractor trailer would cause the car to slow significantly, but not always. A message said the right side camera was obscured or blinded. The sun was shining on the right side of the car at the time.

I attribute all these little glitches to the new software update, as I have heard it can take a few days or a few miles of driving for the computer to recalibrate itself after new software is uploaded. Maybe I am guilty of assuming facts not in evidence.

The trip covered 316 miles in total and consumed about 90 kWh of electricity. In Florida, where electricity is relatively inexpensive, that amounts to about $12.00. Our trusty Honda Civic we drove for many years got about 30 miles per gallon, so on a trip like this we would have used 10.5 gallons of gasoline at a cost of about $34.00. So if we drive the Tesla on 2,727 more trips like this, we will have saved enough money on fuel to pay for the car!

The bottom line is, the Tesla has a lot to teach us and it is going to take a while before we know everything it knows. I feel instead of us programming it, it is programming us. The Model Y feels like driving the future. It is quiet, comfortable, and a pleasure to drive. Our next mission is to learn all about the entertainment system and what all those buttons on the steering wheel do. It’s going to be a learning process, that’s for sure, and we can’t wait!

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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