Tesla could upgrade customer computers to meet self-driving requirements

Elon Musk had some thoughts to share on Tesla’s Q3 earnings call regarding full autonomy and how the automaker is preparing to deliver this to customers down the road. The company announced that its new vehicles had all the hardware on board they needed to achieve full autonomy last year, and offers customers the options to buy an upgrade that would deliver autonomy via software update once it was available.

Musk noted that he still definitely believes Tesla is able to “achieve full autonomy with the current hardware,” but also cautioned that the question will be what qualifies as full autonomy in the eyes of regulators and what is eventually legalized for use on roads. Musk said that current Tesla vehicle computer and sensor hardware would allow for “roughly human-level autonomy,” but also noted that regulators might require a higher level, with potentially systems needing many multiples of human efficacy to be deemed legal to operate.

“We’ll have more to say on the hardware front soon, we’re just not ready to say that now,” Musk said. “But for customers that have purchased the full autonomy option, if it does turn out that it requires computer upgrade for full autonomy, we will replace their computer — it’s just a matter of unplug the old computer, plug the new one in.”

Musk also said he believes that Tesla’s hardware in terms of autonomy is better than any other option out there by a lot, which, combined with his earlier comments regarding hardware news to come soon, could suggest details on upgraded equipment to be revealed in the future.

Tesla did not comment further on the planned coast-to-coast driverless test ride planned for its autonomous system, beyond noting in its investor letter that it still plans on conducting such a test — though at this stage, it seems unlikely to occur before the end of the year.