Tesla Hacker Jason Hughes gets early look at firmware version 9. There are pros & potential cons.
Unrelenting Tesla hacker Jason Hughes, aka @wk057 on Twitter, has posted photos and details of what he alleges is the upcoming version 9 of Tesla’s vehicle firmware.
Version 9 is expected to bring the first set of Full Self Driving (FSD) features to Tesla’s vehicles along with a complete User Interface (UI) overhaul. The early look at the early release candidate shows what the firmware looks like in a Tesla Model S with its 17″ portrait (vertical) monitor. The newer Tesla Model 3 with its landscape (horizontal) 15″ monitor will necessitate a different user interface but would still include some of the functionality improvements and changes to the “look and feel” of the system.
Jason jumps right into the changes, noting that the new version updates the Model S firmware to be more consistent with the firmware on the Model 3. As the newest member of the Tesla family, the Model 3 came with an interface that felt different, with some of the changes necessitated by the elimination of the display in front of the driver where the speedometer and other core vehicle functions like shifting and autopilot information live in other Tesla vehicles.
The new firmware on the Model S eliminates the app bar that used to remain docked at the bottom of the screen. This comes in conjunction with a persistent navigation screen that made its debut with the Model 3. In the new interface, the media player takes the format of the Model 3’s floating media tab, which can be minimized at a few different levels.
Waypoints have also been added to the navigation along with an exciting option in the Autopilot settings called “Drive on Nav.” That sounds like it would line up nicely with Tesla’s plans to enable its vehicles to autonomously drive along a navigation route without additional input from the driver. As with all Tesla features, they sound glorious on paper, but expect them to operate at a similar reliability as the production version of Autopilot does today.
The addition of a MAME emulator, which is software that emulates various hardware platforms and is typically used for emulating various gaming consoles, lines up nicely with Elon Musk’s plans to include Atari games in Version 9.
Depending on how locked down the system is, MAME has the potential to unlock an absolute tsunami of future gaming platforms that will inevitably come with their own licensing challenges. Games used on these platforms tend to live in the less than savory virtual world of bootleg ROMs, but Tesla has surely worked through the licensing issues with the included Atari games. We will have to wait to see if Tesla allows this platform to grow further.
The screenshots show the addition of the calendar, which has yet to be added to the Tesla Model 3 and again represents a stepping stone along the way towards a fully autonomous Tesla. Elon Musk has shared that he plans to integrate the calendar function with the drivers’ smartphone calendars, which could allow the car to see the location of future appointments and use them to automagically determine the next destination for the car. I personally can’t imagine that managing addresses completely in the calendar would be easier than just using the voice controls, but that may be just me.
The controls of the new firmware line up with the look and feel of the controls in the Model 3, bringing the latest Tesla UI design aesthetic to the Model S and X. Jason notes that the version of the admittedly unfinished update was mostly user interface changes that, while they have the potential to improve the way the driver interacts with the vehicle, do not typically bring many new features along with them.
Getting into some of the other features Elon has teased over the last few weeks, Jason notes that he did not see the dashcam functionality that would allow drivers to use the existing cameras to essentially record what happens around the vehicle for replay through a new “app.” The feature has the potential to add value for existing owners while eliminating the need for an aftermarket dashcam.
Not all of the features sound like improvements. The Model S and X currently allow drivers to dock different apps in the upper and lower portions of the oversized screens and version 9 appears to do away with that functionality. This change is not being received well by existing owners who have grown accustomed to the way they like things set up.
Eliminating this functionality could make the vehicles less safe, as some drivers use the top half of the screen to display the rear-view camera for extra safety. While this would still be possible to display in the new firmware, if the functionality is implemented as it exists in the Model 3 today, the rear-view camera would just be a floating window that disappears when the navigation, media, or any other function is selected.
Take these images for a grain of salt as the firmware is clearly still very much in progress. It’s exciting to see what it might look like and the feedback makes me wonder if these images weren’t leaked on purpose as a way of gathering feedback from current owners before the release is finalized.
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