Home » The Tesla Semi Has A Weird And Annoying Issue With Its Windows

The Tesla Semi Has A Weird And Annoying Issue With Its Windows

Tesla Semi Who Decided

Earlier this month, Tesla pulled it off and put its long-awaited Semi on the road. As launch-customer PepsiCo gets its first Semis, questions remain about the tractor’s price, weight, batteries, and exact power figures. But one thing has caught my eye, and it has to do with the Semi’s windows: They work like an old Dodge Caravan’s rear windows, which is bound to make some situations an unnecessary pain. But I have a simple solution!

The Semi is one of Tesla’s most significant product releases in a while. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been making huge promises about the truck—promises that, delivered upon, would put Tesla in a whole new market and ahead of its competition there. I mean, an electric semi-tractor that could carry a full load 500 miles is a huge deal. It seems that Tesla really did drive a loaded one 500 miles, but we still await crucial details about how much the tractor itself weighs. We’re even still waiting for a full video of that drive.

Still, I’m finding myself almost as fascinated with the Semi as I was when I saw a Roadster for the first time.

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Mercedes Streeter

Over the weekend, I realized that something sneaked by my commercial vehicle-loving radar. David, Jason, and I got to see a Semi in person and we got all over the thing with our cameras. I should have noticed it then, but I didn’t. Then European truck driver Tomasz Oryński started a discussion on Twitter about the problems that he sees with the Tesla Semi.

He made some interesting points, like how the day cab (a semi cab without sleeping quarters) is so huge, yet has nothing in it. Or how having the door behind the driver and creating a corridor adds extra unnecessary steps (literally). Here’s what that corridor looks like from the Tesla Semi delivery event:

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Tesla

When this Tweet made it over to our friends at Opposite Lock, something else was revealed: the Semi’s windows only pop out; they apparently do not fully open. This could make it hard for truckers to pay tolls or pass papers in and out of the vehicle—something they understandably do very often.

At first, I couldn’t believe it. Then I looked at the pictures that I took of the Semi prototype that Tesla parked at the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA. Sure enough, flanking the driver are pop-out vent windows.

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Mercedes Streeter

Still not believing what my eyes saw and what my camera took a picture of, I checked Tesla’s promotional video from the event. Yep, the pop-out windows are there, too. And they were there in the timelapse of the Semi that drove 500 miles. Here’s what the windows look like open on a prototype:

Why This Is A Big Deal

It should be noted that Tesla has updated the cab’s design between the prototype stage and production. The trucks featured in Tesla’s promotional videos from the Nevada event are of the updated design, which appears to feature larger windows plus extra dummy-side windows. However, in interior shots, you can still see the arm for the pop-out windows. You can see the window arm to the very right of the below image:

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Tesla

As Oryński pointed out in his thread, being able to reach out of a window is a big deal because truckers often need to communicate with people outside of their rig. It could also mean dealing with authorities or just the simple act of paying a toll. (Granted, many truckers use electronic toll pass systems these days, as do tons of drivers, but let’s face it—sometimes you need to get your window down for a lot of things.)

You may also want to open your window to clean something off of your side mirror or heck, just get some fresh air blowing into the cab.

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Screenshot: My Tesla Adventure/YouTube

But someone driving a Tesla Semi can’t easily do those actions. The windows pop open into a sizable slit, just like a minivan. The central driving position seems to make it so that you’d have to get out of your seat to pass something through the window, anyway. So, realistically, the driver of a Tesla Semi will be getting out of their rigs to conduct business that other truckers can do in their cabs.

Reading “takes” on the Tesla Semi by another trucker, it seems that not having a true opening window is a letdown. I’ve gone through pages of different semi-tractor manufacturers, and so far as I can tell, Tesla is the only one with a production truck with windows that open like a vent. It’s not the worst problem a vehicle could have, but an annoying one that I think could have been largely avoided.

A Potential Solution

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Prototype interior rendering – Tesla

This is something that I have personal experience with, albeit with buses. In both my old school bus and my current Nova Bus RTS, I’ve had to do things that required an open window. I’ve also had conversations through my open windows. You might think that the advent of electronic tolling would have eliminated this problem, but when I’m in line to pay toll, I’m often behind multiple semis.

At this time, we don’t know why Tesla went with its pop-out windows. Perhaps the shape of the Semi makes a rolling window difficult. Maybe it had to do with cost savings. Whatever the reason, General Motors had a solution to this problem decades ago. Let’s look at my RTS.

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Mercedes Streeter

It, like the Tesla Semi, has ginormous windows. And from me digging around my bus, I know that there’s nowhere for that slightly curved window to roll down into. GM’s solution to having an opening window was to have a secondary window that slides open. This window is a tiny opening, but it is more than enough for you to reach your hand out to do whatever you need to do.

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Mercedes Streeter

It’s certainly not ideal, as it’s still a small portal. You sort of have to bend over to talk through the window. However, in my experience, most of the time I don’t even have to take off my seatbelt. And even though this window is tiny, it’s still large enough to blow in fresh air during a drive! And Unlike my RTS, the Tesla Semi’s windows don’t have a chunk of bodywork limiting how far the window could open so that the Tesla could have a bigger portal.

But that’s just my idea. I’m sure there are more configurations that Tesla could have chosen. Here’s where we have a question for you, dear readers. As we wait for more information on the Tesla Semi, we want to know if it’s anywhere as revolutionary as it’s being pitched as. Is having that huge day cab actually useful? Is sitting in the middle of a semi-tractor beneficial?

We don’t drive semis for a living, but some of you might. If you’re in the trucking industry and have comments about the Semi, we’d love to read them at tips@theautopian.com.

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74 Responses

    1. I think that has more to do with airbag regulations. Interesting to note however that Jim Glickenhaus has somehow convinced the NHTSA that the flanking seats in his three-seater are “rear” seats and thus don’t need airbags. I’m not sure how he resolved the driver seat as I believe even middle passengers need an airbag in the front row. However he made a post a few months ago that the car is legal and I don’t remember seeing an airbag in the steering wheel.

    2. I don’t believe federal safety regulations stipulate which side the steering wheel needs to be on, or if it needs to be on a side. There are a few individual states that have recently started to make a fuss over registering RHD cars, but that’s about it as far as I know.

    1. Interesting that you worked for them. Last summer when the non-profit I work for was looking for a new location one of the spaces was actually currently rented by Lion, so I actually saw one of their trucks, wearing Amazon livery.

    2. Looking at the website I was assuming that they were all Euro-spec, but was pleased to see these are actually available in North America! (They may get some heat from Opel/Stellantis regarding their logo, however…)

      1. Designed and manufactured in Quebec, with a plant opening in Joliet, IL real soon!

        There was no talk of expanding overseas when I was there, so the logo should be safe too.

  1. “This could make it hard for truckers to pay tolls”

    Given it’s 2022, do we still pay tolls by throwing some change in a bucket in some places in North America?

    All the toll roads I know of just take a picture of your plate and send you the bill at the end of the month.

    Same deal on a recent trip I was on in Europe. All tolls involved snapping my license plate picture and I paid it when I returned the car to the rental agency.

    1. We do! I often find myself in toll lines in Indiana (and sometimes in Ohio). When I’m towing a big camper or in my bus, I take the far right cash/credit lanes, which are usually populated with semis. I only haven’t gotten an EZPass out of laziness (I know), but I wonder why not all truckers have them.

      Meanwhile, my home state of Illinois does what it used to call “Open Road Tolling.” That’s just a fancy way of saying that cameras take your license plate picture and you get 14 days to pay it, or else you’ll get an angry letter in the mail. Before covid, you got only 7 days and those angry letters would be attached to fines valued at multiple times the cost of the toll.

    2. I have been in several states. None let you drive 1st and pay later. You can set up an account to be immediately be charged but you cant pay tuesday for a hamburger today. So unless there is a national electronic tollroad option you need 50 accounts, or several depending on how many states you deliver to.

      1. Chicago toll roads either read your plate and automatically charge you (if you’re signed up for EZ-Pass) or you can go back and pay afterwords online if you aren’t from the area since paying cash isn’t even an option anymore. What are out-of-towners supposed to do when road tripping through? You dont know what you dont know, until its too late and you’ve just blown through a speed pass toll. Whoops!

      2. There are some places that do toll-by-plate – the Pennsylvania Turnpike is exclusively that now, they went to it during the pandemic, then never went back to human toll collectors. If you have an E-Z Pass, it charges that, if not, it takes a picture of your plate and mails you a bill with a small (large) administrative fee.

        The Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland is the same deal, scan EZ Pass if you’ve got it, mail you an invoice if you don’t. Toll collectors went away in 2020 and never came back.

    3. Agreed, but truckers often need to:

      – give/take paperwork when entering lots.
      – talk to someone through in intercom where you need to press a button.
      – hand ID over when crossing a border.
      – show logs at weigh stations
      Etc.

      Tesla got this wrong, but I have a feeling Lord Elon decreed it.

      1. I have a feeling you’re right, this sort of detail smacks of Elon’s sci-fi future vision over-riding sensible/practical engineering that the rest of the industry figured out 50+ years ago for multiple good reasons.

        At least he didn’t decree it should have gullwing doors I guess…

  2. considering the driver is centrally mounted, it might not make all the much sense to actually have roll down windows, just swiveling while opening the door automatically seems plausible.

    1. I wonder how much of an adjustment it will be for drivers to adapt to the seating position much less all the other changes. I fear this will result in some accidents and possibly deaths for aesthetics.

      If someone has a reason why a day cab needed a hallway and center driver position for reasons I am not fathoming please speak up.

      1. They did it because the right side wasn’t often used as it was “the blind side”. It was jealous of the left side, and led to fight amongst sides, so they sat the driver in the middle to settle it. Now they’re both “blind sides”. Slow clap.

      1. yes, I actually lament the demise of Vent windows in general. I imagine with the exception of when they are being pulled over or being checked for weight, the windows in these trucks stay shut.
        ]I will guess elon might end up saying this is for aerodynamic reasons, but the true answer is likely it is much cheaper than a window that goes all the way down,

        1. Bingo, we have a winner. Glazing that drops needs runners, a regulator, a motor, sealing against the elements, is less aero dynamic and more expensive (because of the part count and BOM).

          And is generally a royal pain in the ass to develop.

          1. But the pop-out 3rd row windows in minivans went the way of the dodo for a reason (maybe facilitated by adding moving glass in the second row). They were a nightmare of field issues. Not that that’s a good enough reason for Tesla.

  3. My family’s business growing grapes. Truckers have to take lading paperwork from us when they leave, and then pass paperwork to weigh station at the wineries, and pick up the final weigh ticket after dumping. To have to get up out of the seat 3 or 4 times per load sounds like a complete pain.

    1. Yeah, at harvest we have to grab tickets at the elevator scale every trip, which currently is done by reaching through the window as you pop the door open partway and right foot brake.

      Having to get completely out of the truck every time? Um, no.

  4. “Built around the driver” without ever actually talking to a driver. This is what happens when the design brief is “Make it look like an Apple product. Oh, and screens!”

    1. If there’s one thing truck driver’s and fleet managers love, it is new, untested technology that is more expensive to fix than its oldschool counterpart.

  5. I like your “Subaru SVX” solution for this problem, lol. (The SVX, by the way, is one of my Holy Grail cars.) However, I wonder whether the center seating position would make it difficult for the driver to reach out of the side window regardless of how it opens?

  6. I drove both long haul and city for nearly 30yrs and agree with everything Tomaz said and more. Especially the ‘stupid vehicle’ observation. Keep the running gear and redesign, no, wait; don’t redesign, that’s the problem. Enhance the current designs that have been rethought and tweaked for nearly 90yrs with feed back from the owners and drivers. Keep the door at the driver’s elbow with a window that rolls down; passenger side too. Unless the rain/snow is coming in sideways I always rolled the windows down. Sometimes it’s a safety issue; like being able to hear some dude yell STOP. A local pick up and delivery driver is always in a hurry and gets out his tractor multiple times all day long. There are situations a driver actually has to open his door to back in to difficult areas; it’s not all warehouses with an acre of concrete apron to line up on. A tractor cab is not an airplane cockpit.
    PS. I kind of lament that there is no reason to include the conventional (long hood) design for an electric semi tractor. Hopefully I’m wrong.

  7. Yup definitely a bad idea to have the driver in the center and the lack of window/door next to the driver. I don’t drive a Semi but do work for a non-profit where I’m the shipping and receiving department among other things and see trucks pulling up to our and our neighbor’s docks all day long, and this will be nothing but a pain for the drivers in many situations.

  8. If truckers are rolling down their windows while driving at speeds over 35 miles and hour in a semi or 55 in a car, they should hand over their cdl’s immediately, you are no longer to be considered a professional driver. The rigs fuel consumption is horrid as is but with the window down you are getting close to 0 mpg.
    Also, who wants to breathe that nasty outside polluted air that lingers over all busy highways, a problem exacerbated by diesel semi’s btw, when the air out of the Tesla vents is filtered.
    As far as reaching out of the cab for paperwork. They are phasing out paper money maaaaybe finally you can get with the times and have digital and contactless paperwork handoffs where you don’t even need to stop the semi. This is a problem with the industry using archaic methods not the Tesla. For heavens sake even the government is doing away with paper money maybe the trucking industry is fighting to keep paper?!

    Aaaaaand blind spots, talking about blind spots how can y’all read if you are as blind as the spots you are complaining about. Do you not see the two large monitors on either side of the wheel? Do you also see what being projected on the monitor? There are no blind spots with a 360 degree view around your truck. Once I got just a backup camera in a vehicle I refused to ever go back to cranking my head all the way around again, when I have to drive other vehicles that don’t have a backup cam that’s the feature I notice the most when it’s gone and it’s a huge pain and also an archaic method. Let’s all take our eyes off the road in the direction my vehicle is heading look out a side window, brilliant idea it most certainly is not. This is all without even taking into account the human flaw of saccadic suppression- going blind for 1-7 seconds every time your eyes move, reason you’ll never see your eyes move when looking in a mirror (go ahead try it)..
    Maybe the reason for having the center cab is to make room for 2 giant monitors on either side of the cab large enough to trigger moving objects in our peripheral view- this is the reason we can’t see motorcyclist moving in our peripheral, they aren’t big enough objects to represent a danger to our brains so they are blocked out in order to conserve energy just like it does our nose or the reason every time you look for something it turns out tone right in front of you- you weren’t overlooking it your brain made it disappear because it wasn’t necessary for your survival to need that object and it needs to conserve energy which your brain already consumes the largest portion of your calories.

    Who knows maybe the 4 hour battery limit will render the sleeper cab useless. Just think about what all will be possible if, while you take your 30 min lunch break to charge your truck while simultaneously passing off your load to the next relay driver before returning home each night to your bed and your family, which now you can have more memories with and not feel like daddy atm. The 4 hour drive on 80% 30 min charge time nicely works out to a 8.5 hr work day just like everyone else.

    Change isn’t always bad, don’t be afraid to embrace it, plus green is a sexy color on you. The evolution of our cavemen truck drivers and the industry has been long overdo.

    P.S. btw it’s never been considered wise to insult, or question The Musk, it’s what stupid tastes like 🙂

    1. You sure used a lot of words to say “I know more about how trucks, and the entire trucking industry, should be designed better than truckers.”

  9. I don’t see why a sleeper cab would be a priority–this thing has a long way to go to become a long-haul tractor that needs a sleeper. 500 miles sounds like a lot to us car people, but probably not to an actual trucker.

    1. 500 miles is going to be close to or at the federal limits for driving hours. So if that range can be achieved hauling more than Cheetos, a sleeper cab would indeed be warranted. Then you stop for the night while the batteries charge.

      But that leads into the issue of charging facilities. Every truck stop, rest area, and rural exit ramp is already parked full of trucks. While charging infrastructure is sure to come, it’s going to be a challenge. So for now, I would expect any early customers will using these for short hauls that return to their own yard at night, so at this point, the sleeper cab is probably premature.

    2. In many branches of the industry, you will be waiting to load or unload at a customer. Since we sit in the driver’s seat for dozens of hours each week, it’s nice to have somewhere else to be during these times. Often the weather isn’t ideal to get outside the truck or you’re having one of those days where you just need a nap.

      You are correct that 500 miles doesn’t sound like a lot to us. You are also correct that there is a long way to go before they can be used as a long haul truck.

      1. Pretty sure Sixt is going to get be getting some unpaid tolls from my time in Miami.. It is fucking riddled with toll roads and no way to pay in cash.

        1. I dont live in Chicago anymore, and when I come back to visit (sometimes forgetting the EZ Pass), I just blast right through. Zero consequences so far, but its not intentional. Not sure what you’re supposed to do when you realize the EZ Pass isn’t on your windshield 2 seconds before you pass through the express lane.

      2. California would like to say “Hi”. Fast Pass is the currency of the road. Of course, it won’t work anywhere east of the Missouri. It would be nice if all the states would get together and settle on one electronic toll pay.

  10. I have to believe that, in the Tesla tradition, the extra cost sleeper cab will come later. They could make roll down windows an option, too. Maybe by subscription.

    1. Tesla has mentioned that a sleeper configuration is being considered for the future. If the mission is to change trucking, then that’s a clear next step.

    2. Well, you’d think they’d show the “all the bells and whistles” sleeper cab, roll down windows etc vehicle while promising an available version at half the price that they’ll only allow you to buy in 5 years during a 15 minute window before removing that trim level from production plans.

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