Tesla’s Wiper Controls Are Now Illegal in Germany

The Tesla Model 3 is filled with all kinds of tech-savvy features including a dual-motor setup that can rocket the car to 60 in 3.2 seconds, an AutoPilot semi self-driving system, and automatic windshield wipers. However, that last feature was recently ruled as being illegal in Germany after a Model 3 owner was involved in an accident while adjusting the wiper speed. It seems pretty trivial, right? Apparently, the German Higher Regional Court (OLG), it’s a much more serious affair.

Blame it on the Tesla Model 3’s touchscreen

Although the Tesla Model 3’s minimalistic interior is loved by many, one of the main drawbacks is that nearly all of the basic interior functions are controlled via the large 15-inch touchscreen that sits front and center. And while the simplistic design of the all-encompassing screen is easy-to-use, having toggle basic functions like the wiper speed can prove to be cumbersome while driving. At least it did for one Model 3 owner in Germany.

While trying to adjust the wipers via the touchscreen, the driver drove his Tesla Model 3 into an embankment and hit some trees on the night of March 19, 2019. The accident ultimately led to a suspended license for one month and a fine of €200. The punishment might sound harsh, but the Higher Regional Court ruled the incident as an “Improper Use of an Electronic Device in Accordance with Section 23 (1a) of the Road Traffic Regulations.”

Tesla Model 3 compact full electric car interior with a large touch screen on the dashboard on display at Brussels Expo
A Tesla Model 3 interior | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

The Model 3’s touchscreen is still an electronic device

While the touchscreen does house a lot of the integral interior controls for the Model 3, according to the judges on the case:

“The touchscreen (permanently installed in the vehicle of the Tesla brand) is an electronic device in the sense of § 23 Para, it does not matter what purpose the driver pursues with the operation. The setting of the functions required to operate the motor vehicle via the touchscreen (here: setting the wiping interval of the windshield wiper) is therefore only permitted if the view is only briefly adjusted to the screen for road, traffic, visibility and weather conditions and at the same time a corresponding turn away from the traffic is connected.”

This ruling from the German Higher Regional Court will likely make Tesla redesign its touchscreen functions and make the basic features more accessible via tactile buttons or knobs. However, the curious part of the whole ordeal is that the Model 3’s wiper washers can be controlled via a button on the left driver’s stalk. One push of the button will activate the wipers once, and holding it will activate them to operate normally, according to Teslarati. Additionally, they can be activated via voice commands, but who really wants to have to activate such a basic function via voice every time?

Tesla Model 3 compact sedan car in white on display at Brussels Expo
The Tesla Model 3 | Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

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Keep it simple

Tesla hasn’t made a statement as of yet as to what it plans to do about the wiper function or about the ruling, however, we hope that they can come up with a better layout soon. For now, German Tesla owners will likely just have to talk to their cars when it starts raining unless the Autopilot feature actually does its job in adjusting the speed automatically.