Finding the fun in a Tesla

The manufacturer is known for including hidden extras and bonus features in its vehicles

Avatar By: Vawn Himmelsbach July 20, 2021
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Whether you’re hunting them down or accidentally stumble upon them, Easter eggs are hidden throughout every Tesla. These bonus features or fun “extras” are hidden by Tesla’s software developers and — like the colourful eggs that kids collect on Easter morning – some are easier to find than others.

While Easter eggs aren’t exclusive to Tesla, the electric vehicle maker takes them to a whole new level,  from simulating a drive on Mars with a rover to putting on a light show to the sounds of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

They’re often humorous (there’s a farting Easter egg under Emissions Testing Mode) with multiple references to pop culture (from James Bond to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) and CEO Elon Musk’s other ventures (like SpaceX). They’ve become so popular that Tesla has made them easier to find — and to collect.

“Easter eggs have become integrated into Tesla’s main interface, and most are no longer hidden, like they used to be,” said Tyler Hayes, a technology writer for Newsweek, adding that new owners can find many of these fun software tweaks in the Toy Box section.

Toy Box features gags and tricks, like Car-aoke, which brings up on-screen lyrics so you can sing along to the music, and a “romance mode” that turns the in-dash display into a crackling fireplace and heats up the car seats, with Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” playing in the background.

Tesla Easter egg

An artist’s sketch of a NASA rover drilling samples on Mars for eventual return to Earth. (Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech) /Toronto Star

But there are still plenty of Easter eggs that require some knowledge to unlock, like the Monty Python one (Musk is rumoured to be a fan of the British sketch comedy troupe).

“You need to rename your car to Patsy and a giant foot will appear to squash the box on-screen,” said Hayes. “A new Monty Python video option will also be displayed in the video section afterwards.”

Tesla Easter Egg

So why Easter eggs? It’s a way to create brand loyalty and take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing. It may also serve some practical purposes.

“When you’re experimenting with new, fun enhancements it might not always be something that every driver wants, so hiding them away always felt like a natural way to include those for people wanting to go looking for them,” said Hayes. “Changing the navigation map to a map of Mars, for example, made more sense to hide away rather than add it as a button on the street maps directly.”

If you don’t feel like driving on Mars, you can turn the gauge cluster into what Musk has referred to as “psychedelic cowbell road.” By turning on the autopilot feature four times in quick succession, a colourful rainbow road (from Nintendo’s “Mario Kart”) appears on the in-dash display, to the sounds of Saturday Night Live’s version of Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” which spawned the catchphrase “more cowbell.”

Tesla Easter egg

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch is the best version of one of their best recent games, as well as a curiously compelling argument for the Switch’s main hardware pitch. (Nintendo of America)

Tesla takes its Easter eggs even further with the ability to turn the infotainment system into a video game hub and play old-school Atari games — when you’re in park mode, of course — and even use the steering wheel as a control.

Another Easter egg allows you to turn your display into a sketchpad, and the resulting artwork can be submitted to Tesla, if you dare (with a nod to “The Matrix” with the option of a red or blue pill).

Easter eggs like Atari games and sketchpads also provide a way for drivers to entertain themselves at a Tesla charging station. And while you’re charging, you might want to try the charge port Easter egg: If you click the button 10 times in a row, the port flashes a rainbow of colours.

Tesla Easter egg

You can even put on a show, complete with flashing lights and music co-ordinated with the opening and closing of the Tesla’s gull wing doors.

“The Santa mode was always a popular one in the early days,” said Hayes. “It changed the on-screen view of your car to a sleigh with reindeer and played music. When you used either turn signal, bells would play. It gets annoying quickly, but most kids really like it.”

Tesla Easter egg

Sean Connery stands in front of an Aston Martin DB5 on the set of the James Bond film “Goldfinger” in 1964.

While Hayes doesn’t have a favourite Easter egg, “I do enjoy the ability for owners to tweak their cars in unique ways, like changing the sound of the horn,” he said.

Tesla’s Boombox mode allows drivers to change the sound of their horn to one of several pre-set sounds — like a bleating goat — or to load in custom audio clips. But this only works when the car is parked, so drivers won’t make bleating goat noises while cruising down the highway.

And for Tesla drivers who really, really love their car, they can give it a hug (yes, seriously) and the panels will light up — revealing a small red heart.

 

SIDEBAR: Hunt these down

Tesla isn’t the only company with Easter eggs:

  • Every Jeep has at least one Easter egg and some have dozens — such as a silhouette of a Jeep climbing a rocky hillside on the windshield, or a spider with the words “Ciao, baby!” on the fuel door.
  • Disney animators insert hidden characters and Mickey Mouse symbols in their movies: Look for Lady and the Tramp wandering the streets of London in the animated version of “One Hundred and One Dalmatians.”
  • Marvel movies have loads of Easter eggs, from homages to comic book history and references to other movies in the Marvel universe, as well as the ever-popular cameos by the late Stan Lee.

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