Tesla to release new self-driving chip to older cars late this year, Musk says


In April at its “Autonomy Day” presentation for investors, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the company was developing a new dedicated self-driving hardware chip that would be significantly faster and more powerful than the chip in existing cars.

At the time, he also announced that the chip will be available for older cars as an upgrade, though he did not indicate when.

Earlier this month, Musk revealed that timeline: The upgrade chips could be available for existing owners by the end of the year.

Tesla has been installing that chip in its new models since February and March, depending on the model.

The new chip, designed by Tesla and built by Samsung, is made to fit into the same socket on the motherboard as the old chip. It will only work on “Hardware 2” cars starting in October 2015 and ordered with the company’s future Full Self-Driving option. Buyers originally paid $3,000 to have the option enabled when Tesla finishes the software—which it has not yet done.

In April, Musk also announced that owners of cars with Hardware 2 without the original Full Self-Driving option will also be able to buy the new chip for $5,000.

Tesla Model 3 dashboard in Autopilot testing with IIHS [CREDIT: IIHS]

These two groups are the Tesla drivers who will get access to the new chip by the end of the year. Teslas built before 2016 don’t have the sensors for full self-driving and can’t use the new chip.

The chip is part of Musk’s effort to create a fleet of fully self-driving robo-taxis, giving owners the ability to rent their cars out autonomously when they would otherwise be parked. The company says it is developing a self-learning “neural network” that will develop the ability—with the help of Tesla software engineers—to drive itself. He said he expects the system to be “feature complete” by the end of the year, though he concedes it will take longer for regulators to allow privately owned cars to drive themselves without human intervention.

In independent tests, previous versions of the company’s Autopilot software have been found wanting, but several of the features have now been made standard as driver safety aids.