A recent hire of a prominent heads-up display engineer might provide some insight into the missing instrument cluster on the highly anticipated Model 3. As reported by BGR, Tesla hired Milan Kovac, formerly the principal engineer at Skully Systems — and the brains behind Skully's innovative heads-up display-equipped AR-1 motorcycle helmets.
The hire might help to explain the biggest mystery about the Tesla Model 3: where is its dashboard instrument cluster? The gauges, a prominent and vital part of vehicles for over a century, traditionally have sat behind the steering wheel, generally right under in the driver's line of sight to the road. Even in the highly-advanced Model S and Model X, Tesla installed an instrument cluster (albeit a single digital display instead of physical dials).
But on the Model 3 there's no such screen. Instead there's a centrally-mounted 15-inch display that's primarily dedicated to the things you'd expect from such a display — mapping, audio and climate controls, etc. — with the speed displayed in a little window in the top left corner closest to the driver's field of view.
If the hire of Kovac is any indication, Tesla might be planning to install an advanced heads-up display in the Model 3 in lieu of a more traditionally-located instrument cluster. While there's no doubt that optional Autopilot will play a huge role in the Model 3, the expansive windshield could also be home to a projected-and-reflected display instead.
HUDs have been experimented with frequently over the years, but have also frequently run into issues with trying to outshine the sun. Many vehicles today are equipped with warning lights embedded in the dash to alert drivers if they're coming up too quickly on another vehicle, or basic HUD functions like a speed readout or navigation. There are also several third-party HUD options that can be added to an existing car (essentially LCD displays that plug into your car's OBD-II diagnostic port).
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has hinted that there's more to come in the "Part 2" of the Model 3's unveiling (the first part didn't do much to explain the non-standard dash layout):
@BValvsRacing It will make sense after part 2 of the Model 3 unveil— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 3, 2016
According to Kovac's LinkedIn profile he is working on Autopilot at Tesla — he is primarily a software engineer and worked on building the Skully helmet's system architecture, adapting Android for the helmet, and debugging hardware-software integration. Advanced Autopilot combined with a heads-up display could go a long way to explaining what's going on with the Model 3, though it'll probably be a while before we get to see the full picture.