Electric Cars

Elon Musk says new Tesla Autopilot chip will be ready in about 6 months

If you paid for that mysterious "Full Self-Driving" package, you'll be eligible for a retrofit.

Tesla

A promised upgrade for Tesla's Autopilot semi-automated driving system should bring some big performance benefits to both new and old cars, and it shouldn't be too much longer before it's available.

Elon Musk said on Twitter a major upgrade for Autopilot will be available within approximately six months. This will boost Autopilot's processing capability in a big way, with Musk promising somewhere between a 500 and 2,000-percent boost in operations per second. This is the computer responsible for crunching all the data its sensors and cameras take in. It's the brain of the Autopilot system, so to speak.

In addition to offering the Autopilot upgrade in new cars built after its release, it will also be available as an upgrade for older cars sporting the latest versions of its Autopilot hardware (versions 2.0. and 2.5). Buyers who purchased the mysteriously named "Full Self-Driving Capability" option will be eligible for this upgrade, which is a straightforward removal and replacement of the old chipset. That option was available to buyers who also purchased the "Enhanced Autopilot" package, both of which cost multiple thousands of dollars.

Buyers with eligible cars who haven't yet paid for the required option will be able to do so and receive the upgrade. It bears noting that this computing-power upgrade doesn't yet enable any kind of self-driving. It merely enhances the power of the car's neural net, improving Autopilot performance and paving the way for additional features in the future.

This is in addition to Tesla's version 9.0 software upgrade, which was recently pushed to Tesla vehicles via an over-the-air update. This upgrade included an improved version of Tesla's neural net, and according to another Musk tweet, its performance improved by approximately 400 percent over the pre-9.0 neural net.

Tesla may have named its computer-upgrade option "Full Self-Driving Capability," but Autopilot remains a driver-assist system. Classified as SAE Level 2, the system is capable of controlling the vehicle in its lane for short periods of time, and it requires the driver to maintain full attention to the road at all times. It's not a "hands-off" system like Cadillac Super Cruise, which Consumer Reports recently ranked above driver-assist systems from Nissan, Volvo and -- you guessed it -- Tesla.

Tesla Model 3 Performance: It'll rock your world in most, but not all ways.

Tesla Model X: See why we're still fascinated by this wild-doored electric SUV.

2018 Tesla Model 3 Long Range