Elon Musk has announced that Tesla’s new custom AI chip is about six months away from being installed in new production cars. The CEO said that the chip, which was confirmed as being in development last December, will offer “somewhere between [a] 500% & 2000%” increase in its vehicle’s autonomous driving performance. Existing Tesla owners who have already paid for full self-driving will be offered this “hardware 3” update for Autopilot free of charge.
The announcement comes as v9 of Tesla’s onboard software has already reportedly brought big improvements to its neural network with a unified camera network that more seamlessly integrates all eight of the car’s cameras. Musk has suggested that this software update delivered an approximate 400 percent increase in its capabilities.
Tesla began developing its own hardware after it split with its previous partner Mobileye two years ago. Earlier that year, a driver was killed when their Autopilot system failed to brake to avoid an obstacle.
Musk’s proposed timelines should be taken with a grain of salt, however. In late 2015, the CEO said that all Tesla vehicles would feature “complete autonomy” in “approximately” two years. Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot might be impressive, but in late 2018, it’s far from fully autonomous. Even v9 was supposed to include a new feature called Navigate that has so far failed to be released.
We’re hoping to get a better sense of the current status of Tesla’s self-driving capabilities at its long-anticipated “coast-to-coast” drive, but this was recently postponed to allow the Autopilot team to work on the upgrade. With the car’s v9 software now released and its new computing hardware on the way soon, Tesla could soon be ready to embark upon its big journey.