Japanese business newspaper Nikkei Asian Review recently conducted a teardown of a Tesla Model 3, and engineers were shocked at how advanced the electric car company’s onboard computer technology was.
Tesla Inc’s (TSLA) core computing technology, which will allow autonomous operation, is “far ahead” of other carmakers’ computing, according to a “tear-down” of the vehicle and review by Nikkei Asian Review. Tesla appears to maintain much tighter control over the components in its car.
“We cannot do it,” an unnamed Japanese engineer at a rival car company said after analyzing the Model 3’s integrated central control unit, as quoted by Nikkei — referring to legacy automakers’ inability to catch up to Tesla’s AI chips.
The company deconstructed the Tesla Model 3, the company’s $33,000 all-electric car, and said its integrated central control unit, or “full self-driving computer,” sets the car apart from any on the market.
Nikkei Asian Review touted the computer, also known as “Hardware 3,” as Tesla’s “biggest weapon in the burgeoning EV market” and said it could “end the auto industry supply chain as we know it.” That’s because the Tesla computer eliminates the need in the car for many of the electronic control units currently supplied to other automakers by a vast web of suppliers.
The current generation of Tesla’s “Hardware 3” chips, which it started installing in vehicles last year, have enough computational power to enable Tesla vehicles to drive themselves, according to CEO Elon Musk fully.
But as of right now, Tesla’s fleet’s self-driving capabilities are limited to Level 2 — out of five, in which level 5 is fully autonomous — or “partially autonomous.” That means they’re able to handle things like changing lanes, making turns, and navigating parking lots without a driver in the seat.
Nonetheless, according to Nikkei, the rest of the industry is expecting the same level of technology to make it into cars no sooner than 2025, prompting experts to suggest Tesla is a full six years ahead of the competition.
The holdup, according to Nikkei, is likely related to established automakers’ legacy supply chains. Tesla is a newer company that can choose its partners more freely; in other words, effectively leapfrogging the competition.
The computing component, which is in new Model S and Model X Teslas in addition to new Model 3s, includes two custom AI chips developed by Tesla on its own and special software. The computer not only powers the Tesla’s autonomous capabilities but its in-vehicle entertainment system.
Tesla has beaten rivals, including Toyota Motor Corp. and Volkswagen AG/ADR, on autonomy-capable computing power by as much as six years, the article said.
Tesla is bringing other technology development in-house, in addition to its software and computing hardware, Nikkei said.