Tesla Is Now Installing Full Self-Driving Hardware 3 Upgrade In Some Cars

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The first confirmed upgrade to Tesla’s new Full Self-Driving hardware version 3 (HW3) took place today after a customer took his 2018 Tesla Model S P100DL into the Santa Barbara service center to get a new HEPA filter. After the service, Twitterer and longtime Tesla supporter Sofiaan Fraval noticed that a line on his service documents indicated that the new hardware had been installed at the appointment as well (h/t to Vincent for spotting this one).

The new hardware is a direct replacement for the Nvidia full self-driving computer that Tesla used in its HW2 and HW2.5 equipped vehicles. Tesla built its own full self-driving (FSD) computer after becoming dissatisfied with the generic computing options available on the market from even best-in-class providers like Nvidia.

Sofiaan went on to clarify that the HW3 upgrade was currently only being offered to Model S and X owners, but just the fact that the upgrades have started is sure to get anyone who purchased the FSD suite excited. Tesla CEO Elon Musk blasted news out on Twitter back in March that anyone who purchased FSD would get the upgrade to the new FSD computer free of charge. The new hardware brings 21 times the computing power to Tesla’s vehicles compared to the previous generation of Nvidia hardware being used.

Installing the hardware is step one. The real beast that goes unspoken with the hardware upgrade is the fact that Tesla has to rebuild its software stack for not just a completely new computer, but with redundancy on that new computing platform in mind. We saw the same stutter step backward with Tesla when it switched from the Mobileye chipsets to Nvidia’s computing hardware, and the company has said the same of the new FSD computer.

Tesla full self-driving computer
Image courtesy: Tesla

It will take some time for Tesla to fully port the solution over to the new hardware and get it up and running. The upshot is that Tesla has a lot more computing resources to work with and, as it designed and built the FSD computer and the chips that power it in-house, the ramp back up to the same capability as current HW2 computers should not take as long as the ramp from HW1 to HW2.

The new HW3 cannot yet be requested by customers for installation, as it is only being installed by eligible vehicles that come in for other service at service centers that have the new hardware and have been trained to install it. Even if you think your vehicle qualifies, you may not get the new HW3 installed at a service appointment. So don’t go crazy on Tesla’s service team, because this thing is still in limited release and they likely don’t have all the information about when it will be available and how it is being rolled out either.

The arrival of HW3 currently only impacts Tesla owners running HW2 who have purchased the FSD software stack. That’s a pretty steep financial commitment in and of itself, as it not only requires the purchase of a Tesla vehicle, but also the purchase the rather pricey Full Self Driving solution for another $6,000. It’s a bit of a sticky situation, as even at its current price, Tesla has repeatedly shared its plan to increase the price of the solution as future software releases are pushed out.

I would love to stay and chat about it more, but I have to run. I need to schedule a completely unrelated HEPA filter service appointment.

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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