When Tesla first introduced the Autopilot in October 2014, it announced that every car from now on would be equipped with the Autopilot hardware suite which consists of a forward-looking camera, radar and 360° ultrasonic sensors. Tesla has since been pushing updates to enable new features to the cars equipped with the system.

Of course, existing Tesla owners asked if a retrofit would be available for their vehicles. Tesla was quick to suppress any hope that a retrofit would be made available citing a workload too important to make a retrofit cost-effective versus simply trading up for a Model S equipped with Autopilot hardware.

Now a Tesla hacker proved the automaker’s point by himself retrofitting a classic Model P85 with new and salvaged Autopilot parts and sensors, and actually making it work.

You will not be surprised to learn that the hardware hacker is Jason Hughes, aka wk057, best known for finding the mention of an upcoming ‘P100D’ in Tesla’s software updates and for building a massive energy storage system out of two salvaged Model S.

But in term of technical difficulty, his latest project is probably the most impressive to date and I really can’t overstate how impressive it is. Just reading the summary of the things he had to replace is exhausting:

“Replaced the steering control stalks, steering wheel buttons, instrument cluster, brake booster, ABS/ESP (traction control module),all  four wheel speed sensors, windshield, rear view mirror, parking sensor ECU, all of the parking sensors and parking sensor wiring, the entire rear bumper cover, and thermal controller module.  Added the front radar and all related mounting, the forward camera assembly.  I also modified the front bumper cover and wheel arch liners to accommodate the new ultrasonic sensors.”

You can visit his website for a detailed post about the whole process which took him about 50 hours of work.

If anything, Hughes’ project proves the logic behind why Tesla is not offering a retrofit. He admittedly did it as a proof-of-concept and because he wanted his wife, who drives the Model S P85, to have the Tesla Autopilot without having to sell the vehicle and buy a new one, which would have been way easier and likely cost roughly the same if you include his time in the overall cost.

He says that it roughly cost him about $9,000 in parts purchased from Tesla and through salvages.

Don’t ask him to do it again because he says he wouldn’t. He is also aware that the project will likely have an impact on his warranty.wk ap retrofit 2016-05-11 19.09 - testing new rear sensors-1280If you are asking yourself how come the renderings of the Model S on the displays are yellow, just like the wrap of the car, it’s because Hughes managed the change the settings through his root access of the vehicle’s systems and display a color not normally available through Tesla. It’s a nice touch that completes the aftermarket modification and something Tesla should probably enable for people who decide to wrap the Model S, or Model X for that matter.

Tesla should just hire Hughes already.

If you need proof that it actually works (aside from the very detailed post), here’s a video of a double summoning with both the P85, which shouldn’t be able to perform the maneuver, and the P85D, which is built for it:

All images from wk057’s SkieNET

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