All Tesla vehicles produced since October 2016 are equipped with a powerful computer that will eventually enable fully self-driving capability. Nvidia describes its Drive PX 2 as “the world’s first AI supercomputer for self-driving cars.” It has the computing power of about 150 MacBook Pros, and the company estimates that one can support Level 4 autonomy, but that two would be necessary for full Level 5 self-driving.
Nvidia advertises two versions of the Drive PX 2: Drive PX 2 for Autocruise, which has a single GPU and a single camera/radar input; and Drive PX 2 for AutoChauffeur, which has 2 GPUs and several camera/radar inputs. Day’s teardown shows that the board used in Model S appears to be a custom solution that is less powerful than Nvidia’s top-of-the-line model.
Will this board be powerful enough to enable full Level 5 autonomy? Elon Musk has promised to demonstrate a driverless odyssey from New York to LA by the end of this year, so he must know something we don’t. Tesla has hinted in the past that improvements to its Autopilot software could make it possible to get by with less hardware than is currently possible. And of course, if an owner can remove (and presumably replace) the board without damage, then it wouldn’t be out of the question for Tesla to upgrade the hardware in the future.
It’s also rumored that Tesla is working on its own custom chipset. Renowned chip architect Jim Keller is the company’s head of Autopilot Hardware Engineering, and other expert chipsters from companies such as AMD, Apple and Nvidia are on the Tesla team as well.