Elon Musk talks a big game about Tesla’s self-driving car plansbut some of those claims might have been a bit overblown.
Tesla’s newest cars are being outfitted with a new onboard computer system, according to a report from Electrek. The news was later confirmed to Mashable by the automaker’s reps in an email.
The new system adds even more computing power for self-driving functionality as Tesla aims to achieve Level 5 autonomy (full self-driving without human interaction) in the near future. Musk is so confident about the development that he’s promised that Tesla will conduct the first coast-to-coast driverless journey before the end of 2017.
The upgrade presents Tesla with a big problem, however: the automaker has long held that every car produced since last October is equipped with the proper hardware for Level 5 self-driving once the Autopilot software catches up through a series of over-the-air (OTA) updates.
That hardware suite, called HW2, has been a major focus for Tesla since its announcement but the report claims that the new computer system is reportedly being referred to as “HW 2.5,” casting doubt over the capabilities of the now-inferior HW2 system.
Tesla missing its mark with HW2 wouldn’t be such a big deal if meeting a deadline were the only concern but some of the automaker’s customers with HW2-equipped cars are already paying for the self-driving functionality. The feature is a $3,000 add-on for the new Model 3, while Model S owners can opt to fork over $4,000 after delivery or $48 per month to wait on Level 5.
A Tesla spokesperson told us that the new computer system is real and included in all new Teslas, but it’s an incremental update at most which added some “computing and wiring redundancy, which very slightly improves reliability.” They called the “2.5” moniker an “overstatement,” writing that it’d be more accurately named “HW 2.1.”
Tesla still expects that HW 2.0-equipped cars will be able to reach Level 5 eventually, but admits that there is a chance that the system will need to be upgraded in the future. If that’s the case, the spokesperson told us that the automaker will provide upgrades to the required computer system “at no cost.”
For those wondering about Tesla’s more exciting, record-setting goals, however, have no fear. The spokesperson assured us that the cross-country journey is still on: “We reiterate our goal of driving from a parking lot in downtown LA to a parking lot in downtown NY without touching the controls by the end of the year.”
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