Elon Musk Says Upgrading Autopilot Hardware on Older Teslas Is

Model Y in a Tesla showroom

Photo: Joe Raedle / Staff (Getty Images)

Even if you order a brand new Tesla and pay the extra $15,000 to add the so-called Full Self-Driving Beta software, no Tesla is actually capable of self-driving. And that won’t change in the near future, either. Over-the-air updates may improve what current Teslas can already do, but upcoming hardware changes are still going to leave current owners behind.

InsideEVs reports that Tesla plans to upgrade the computer it uses in future vehicles to one it calls Hardware 4. It will be more powerful than the current Hardware 3 system and should be more capable, as well. Without lidar, we’re not sure how Tesla plans to safely get to Level 3 capability, but it’s probably safe to assume that Hardware 4 will be better than Hardware 3 even if it’s still not good enough to handle true self-driving.

But if owners who paid for FSD want the latest hardware update, they’ll have to buy a new Tesla. When Elon Musk was asked about retrofitting older cars with Hardware 4, he said the company has no plans to do so. “The cost and difficulty of retrofitting Hardware 3 with Hardware 4 is quite significant. So it would not be, I think, economically feasible to do so,” said Musk.

Musk then went on to make some wild, unsubstantiated claims about Teslas using Hardware 3 still being safer than human-controlled cars:

Hardware 3 will not be as good as Hardware 4, but I’m confident that Hardware 3 will so far exceed the safety of the average human. So how do we get ultimately to – let’s say, for argument’s sake, if Hardware 3 can be, say, 200% or 300% safer than humans, Hardware 4 might be 500% or 600%. It will be Hardware 5 beyond that. But what really matters is are we improving the average safety on the road.

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While current Tesla owners will probably be disappointed they’re being left behind on the hardware front, it’s not terribly surprising that a car company would be more focused on future products than retrofitting older vehicles with the latest computers. But at the same time, when you sell customers a product that you insist will eventually be capable of driving itself, it shouldn’t be surprising that they’d get mad when they hear that won’t actually ever happen.


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