Friday, December 21, 2012

The Key

I wanted to start writing about the many of the features of my Model S to help show what the day to day experience is like. So what better place to start than the key.

The key isn't really a key. It looks kinda like a toy car the size of a matchbox car. It's sleek and black with a small Tesla symbol at the "front" of the car to help indicate the front vs. the rear. That's important because there are 3 areas of the key that are pressable as buttons.

The Key

The Buttons

When you press the front of the key twice (double click), it unlatches the "frunk". That's the front area under the hood where there is storage space. The key opens the frunk but since its not automatic, you still have to lift it open and close it by hand. The middle area of the key locks and unlocks the doors. Single click - locks while double-click unlocks. The rear part of the key controls the trunk. My car has the tech package so double clicking the rear key button will open and close the trunk automatically.

Keep the Key in Your Pocket

The best part of the key though is the fact that the car detects when its near and can automate entry, exit and driving. There are various options that can be set on the touch screen that controls some of this behavior. For example, in the settings, you can turn on "Auto-present handles" and "Walk-away door lock".

"Auto-present handles" - When ON, as you approach the locked car, it detects when you are near the door and automatically extends the door handles. The door handles normally are recessed into the body of the car enhancing the exterior's sleek appearance and improves the aerodynamics when on the road. They extend under various circumstances including when it detects that you are approaching the door. For me, this is usually about 2 feet way. Its a beautiful feature. When I walk to the car, the key stays in my pocket and just as I'm reaching my hand out to open the door, the handle extends to greet me. The timing and distance is perfect.

The Door Handle Retracted

The Door Handle Extended

"Walk-away door lock" - When ON, as you walk away from the car, once you reach a certain distance, the doors will lock and the handles will retract. For me, the distance seems to be about 30 feet or so but I haven't actually measured.

Additionally, when you sit in the car, everything turns on. The key doesn't "go anywhere". As long as its near and detected in driver seat area, the car is ready to go. You just hit the brake and put it in to Drive or Reverse and go. So combined with the "auto-present handles" and "walk-away door lock" features, the key can simply stay in your pocket. This provides a really smooth entry, exit and use of the car. You walk up, the door handles extend. Open the door and sit down. Push on the brake with your foot, put it in gear and drive away. Then when you park, just get out and walk away and doors lock all without fumbling for the key. Nice.

Short Video Approaching the Car

Just One Caveat

Here is one caveat I've found though: If I keep the key in my pocket where my phone is, I've noticed it doesn't detect my presence very well as I approach a door. Sometimes I'd have to stand there for a moment or even take the key out of my pocket. So I switched the key to my other pocket and it works perfectly. Maybe the phone interferes with the signal, not sure.



  1. Others have noted that the shape is so distintive that, e.g., the car can be manually locked by feel, with the key still in your pocket.

    It's "brake", btw, not 'hit the break'. Nothing broken required.

    1. Yes, the shape is very distinctive. In fact, before I had the "walk-away door lock" feature on, I had put the key in the upper small pocket of my jeans with the top facing outward (It's small enough to fit there nicely). I could fairly easily reach down and press on the key through my jeans just by feel to lock the car. I also once reached into my pocket and opened the trunk without looking at the key. Now that I have the walk away lock feature ON, the key rarely leaves my pocket and I rarely even touch it. It is all very smooth.