Since late last year, we’ve known Tesla’s plans to add radar back to its cars. The move is the final nail in the computer-vision coffin, a testament to the necessity of radar (or LiDAR) in automated driving. But now the computer meant to reintroduce radar appears to have leaked, and brings another “feature” of the tech world to cars: Obsolescence.
As reported by InsideEVs, leaked hardware for Tesla’s new in-car computer (known as “HW4") appeared in the hands of Twitter user @greentheonly. They tore down the black box and found its layout to be different from earlier devices — meaning no earlier Tesla cars can have the new system retrofitted.
The Twitter account claims cars using HW4 are already in production, though they haven’t yet been delivered to buyers. This timeline seems to match up with Tesla’s plans from last year, which called for the new system to be up and running early in 2023.
Tearing down the HW4 computer reveals some interesting decisions. Much of the board is redundant, with multiple power sources and connections that serve as backups, but some of that redundancy doesn’t seem to work. Cutting power to one side of the board will instantly kill its connection to the car’s infotainment system, according to @greentheonly.
The new hardware also includes connectors for yet more cameras, seemingly to be located in the car’s front bumper. This, too, calls into question Tesla’s promise of self-driving on the outgoing hardware — even with radar, it seems that older cars simply don’t have enough forward-facing cameras to get the job done.
Elon Musk still claims that the outgoing Tesla hardware is sufficient for some degree of vehicular autonomy, but it may not be long until that promise starts to slip away. The dream of self-driving will require a combination of sensors and cameras, and that’s hardware the older cars simply lack. But, hey, you can always upgrade to the latest model — until that one’s out-of-date too.