Last September, Tesla made an offer to 100 employees — become a beta tester for the company’s next-level autonomous driving system and get the final product installed free once it becomes production ready. All any volunteer needed to do was agree to provide the company with 300 hours of feedback on how the new technology works.
Now Inverse reports a new email has gone out to employees from Elon Musk asking for a few hundred more volunteers. As before, those who accept the offer will be eligible to have the Full Self Driving (FSD) package of hardware and software installed in their cars at no cost. The current price of FSD is $8,000.
Full self-driving capability is dependent on swapping the current autonomous driving computer — the Nvidia Drive PX 2 — for a new unit designed and built in-house. The new computer features a chip designed by Pete Bannon, who also designed to chip for the iPhone 5S. The Drive PX2 can process 20 digital camera frames per second. The new computer processes 2,000 frames per second with full redundancy and fail-over.
Elon has said previously Tesla’s new computer is a direct replacement for the Nvidia Drive PX 2. Slide the old one out, slide the new one in, complete the necessary programming, and the job is done. That means any current Tesla owner who did not choose the FSD option at the time of purchase will be able to upgrade to the new computer. The cost of that upgrade has not been announced or even hinted at by the company.
What is interesting about this latest announcement is it confirms cars built since October 2016 — when the Hardware 2 package of cameras, radar, and ultrasound sensors became available — will not require any other new sensor hardware. It is remarkable that Tesla was able to come up with all the sensors needed for full self-driving capability more than 2 years ago and did it without the bulky LIDAR units other manufacturers rely on.
In October, Musk suggested full self-driving capability would be ready to roll out in April 2019. Does this latest call for more beta testers suggest that target date will now be pushed back? Or that all is on track? Whether it happens in April or July is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Tesla appears to be years ahead of any competitor. That’s the metric that will matter most in the long run.
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