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Tesla HW4 Computer to Launch With the Cybertruck, Existing Cars Won't Be Upgradeable

While people still digest Tesla’s Q4 2022 earnings call discussions, it appears that the Cybertruck was not the only hot topic. The upcoming Autopilot HW4 computer and the accompanying sensor suite were also high on investors’ minds. Elon Musk confirmed that the new Autopilot computer would arrive with the Cybertruck, although he contradicted himself over the benefits it might bring.
Tesla HW4 computer to launch with the Cybertruck, existing cars won’t be upgradeable 6 photos
Photo: Tesla
Tesla prepares to launch Autopilot HW4 sensor suiteTesla prepares to launch Autopilot HW4 sensor suiteTesla prepares to launch Autopilot HW4 sensor suiteTesla prepares to launch Autopilot HW4 sensor suite2024 Tesla Model 3 Facelift Prototype
Although Elon Musk and Tesla keep insisting that all Tesla vehicles come with everything needed, hardware-wise, to unleash Full Self-Driving, there are strong indications that this is not the case. Tesla CEO spoke about a next-generation Autopilot computer during the 2021 AI Day event, which, coming after HW3, was naturally named HW4. Although no other details were offered, people expected to have vastly improved processing power over the current HW3.

Since then, bits of information regarding the new Autopilot computer have been revealed unofficially. This is how we’ve learned about the new camera pack included with the new sensor suite. Tesla will feature higher-resolution cameras with a wider field of view and reduce their number. The HW4 is also expected to come with a high-resolution radar, which contradicts everything Tesla has said about its “vision-only” beliefs.

Tesla enthusiasts expected the HW computer to launch earlier this year based on a confidentiality agreement with the FCC regarding the HR radar. Unfortunately for those hoping to get it with their next Tesla soon, Elon Musk confirmed that the HW4 suite would launch with the Cybertruck. This means the first vehicles featuring the new sensors and the more powerful computer would not get in the hands of the customers earlier than Q3, if at all this year.

Indeed the Cybertruck would start low-volume production this summer as planned, but the first units aren’t likely to be sold to real customers. Elon Musk said that volume production is delayed until 2024, so this is the likeliest timeframe for the first vehicles with Hardware 4. Based on Musk’s words, it’s not clear what are the advantages of the new hardware suite. For once, he said that he doesn’t think cars with the HW3 computer need to upgrade to the HW4.

Indeed, we have information that the leap from HW3 to HW4 would not be as impressive as from HW2.5 to HW3. On the other hand, Musk said that the new computer would still offer increased road safety compared to the previous-generation hardware. Two or three times safer, no less, which is significant, as it can make the difference between being dead in a crash and alive to tell the story.

“Hardware 3 will not be as good as Hardware 4, but I’m confident that Hardware 3 will still far exceed the safety of the average human,” said Musk during the Q&A session. “So what we’re aiming for is how do we get ultimately to, let’s say, for argument’s sake, if Hardware 3 can be, say, 200% or 300% safer than humans, Hardware 4 might be 500% or 600%.”

Musk also poured cold water on people’s hopes that the Hardware 4 might be retrofitted to existing vehicles. Depending on what Musk’s statements you want to believe, it’s either because it will not be needed (not enough benefits, see above) or because it’s too expensive.

“The cost and difficulty of retrofitting Hardware 3 with Hardware 4 is quite significant,” said Musk. “So it would not be, I think, economically feasible to do so.”

These statements only add to the confusion. If it’s such a small incremental update over the current hardware, why is it so expensive to retrofit in the first place? Our take is that the HW4, with the improved computer, better cameras, and the additional high-resolution radar, is a quantum leap in safety and capabilities. Nevertheless, admitting that means Tesla deceived all those who bought FSD with HW3, thinking that’s all they needed for Full Self-Driving.

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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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