The automotive world is inching towards fully autonomous rides that can take us where we want to go without driver intervention. Tesla seems to be reaching towards full autonomy faster than competing brands; earlier this month the automaker announced that its Autopilot system could change lanes without driver input. Tesla has now announced that its latest self-driving hardware is available and it's called the Full Self-Driving Computer or FSD.
The hardware was formerly known as Autopilot Hardware 3.0. Tesla also clarified that the new FSD is already installed in all new Model S and Model X cars that were built starting around March 20th. The new hardware is also inside many Model 3 vehicles that were built starting around April 12th.
Tesla owners who purchased a vehicle before those dates and want the new FSD in their rides to enjoy the new features can get the new hardware retrofitted to their vehicles, if they purchased the Full Self-Driving Package, starting in the next few months. It's unclear if that retrofit will be free or if there is a cost associated.
Tesla also explained the FSD in detail at a talk during Tesla Autonomy Day this week. According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, there was no chip built from the ground up for neural networking, so the company designed one and built software specifically for the hardware inside the FSD. The new chip that Tesla uses is manufactured by Samsung, and while supporting fully autonomous driving, the new FSD hardware is 20% less expensive per car than the Autopilot 2.5 hardware the FSD replaces. NVIDIA designed the chip inside Tesla's former Autopilot Hardware. Tesla also made the claim that its new FSD computer is 7x faster than hardware available from rival companies (namely NVIDIA), offering 144 TOPS compute performance. However, NVIDIA was quick to point out that Tesla was playing fast and loose with the numbers during its presentation.
"While Xavier delivers 30 TOPS of processing, Tesla erroneously stated that it delivers 21 TOPS. Moreover, a system with a single Xavier processor is designed for assisted driving AutoPilot features, not full self-driving," NVIDIA writes. "It’s not useful to compare the performance of Tesla’s two-chip Full Self Driving computer against NVIDIA’s single-chip driver assistance system. Tesla’s two-chip FSD computer at 144 TOPs would compare against the NVIDIA DRIVE AGX Pegasus computer which runs at 320 TOPS for AI perception, localization and path planning."
With that being said, Musk claims that Tesla is already working on a next-generation of the chip and that the new chip is expected to be three times better than the current chip. That next-gen chip is about two years away.