Tesla is preparing its most important retrofit program to date and something completely new in the industry: updating hundreds of thousands of vehicles with a new computer to support fully self-driving capability.

Now CEO Elon Musk clarifies Tesla’s plans.

As we previously reported, Tesla is working on an important new product that it claims will enable them to bring full self-driving capability to its vehicles: a new AI chip, or “neural net accelerator’, to be released in the Autopilot Hardware 3.0 computer upgrade.

Last year, Pete Bannon, Tesla’s chip architect in charge of the project, said that they were ramping up their manufacturing effort and aiming to start production of the Autopilot Hardware 3 computer around the end of the first quarter of 2019.

We are now very much at the end of the first quarter and Musk is now starting to clarify Tesla’s plan to rollout the new computer.

It is first expected to make its way into new vehicles, but current owners are also waiting for the retrofit program.

He said about the retrofits on Twitter today (FSD stands for ‘Full Self-Driving):

“Anyone who purchased full self-driving will get FSD computer upgrade for free. This is the only change between Autopilot HW2.5 & HW3. Going forward “HW3” will just be called FSD Computer, which is accurate. No change to vehicle sensors or wire harness needed. This is very important.”

In another tweet, Musk clarified that Tesla will only start to do retrofits when the software will actually catch up to hardware.

He explained on Twitter:

As for the new computer making its way in new cars in production, there have recently been rumors that it is already in new cars, but it remains unconfirmed.

We reported earlier this month that Tesla updated its language about self-driving on its website to make it sounds like the new hardware was actually in new cars.

Electrek’s Take

This makes sense. Tesla has been optimizing Autopilot software for the current hardware and it makes sense that it would take some time for them to adapt software to the new HW3/FSD computer and take full advantage of the new computing power.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Tesla is already starting to install the computer in new vehicles, but they might not be at a level of production to support the ~7,000 vehicles per week that they are producing right now.

But the retrofit program is even more interesting since Tesla is going to have to swap so many computers, especially after the recent FSD discount, which probably resulted in many Tesla owners ordering the FSD package.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.


Subscribe to Electrek on YouTube for exclusive videos and subscribe to the podcast.

About the Author