Tesla CEO Elon Musk Reveals That New Chip For Self-Driving Cars Out In Six Months

Elon Musk
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and, now,Tesla Motors. (Photo: By JD Lasica, via Wikimedia Commons)

A chip that improves the semi-autonomous driving features of Tesla cars would be available to all the company's new production vehicles in about six months or early 2019, according to its chief executive Elon Musk.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Musk disclosed that the new Tesla neural network chip that heightens performance improvements on its self-driving capability is scheduled to be released in six months' time.

"~6 months before it is in all new production cars. No change to sensors. This is simple replacement of the Autopilot computer," Musk tweeted.

He added that Tesla car owners who ordered vehicles with "full self-driving capability" would be able to replace their Autopilot computers with the new chip "free of charge."

The new chip is expected to boost the capability of Autopilot's processing, with Musk vowing to boost between "500 to 2,000 percent in operations per second." Autopilot handles all the data gathered by sensors and cameras in the car.

The neural network computer chip is envisioned to allow Tesla car Autopilots to run in any condition with the improved processing of information.

Older Tesla cars installed with the latest version of Autopilot hardware can also avail the upgrade, which retails between US$3,000 and US$5,000. Meanwhile, an over-the-air upgrade reportedly costs US$6,000.

Baring any delays, the chip is seen to be released by early 2019, according to Musk. But despite the pronouncements, the Tesla CEO admitted that the development still has "a long way to go."

It is worth noting that the enhanced Autopilot upgrade would still not allow self-driving in the fullest sense of the term. Instead, the upgrade increases the capability of Autopilot to process all the information it receives, thus improving the the car's autonomous feature.

Autopilot is described as a driver assistance system that takes care of some tasks in driving a vehicle to allow drivers to safely take their hands off the steering wheel. The revolutionary car company, however, insists that drivers still continue to keep their hands on the wheel while using the system to prevent any untoward mishaps.

A related development, however, might prevent Musk from issuing updates through his Twitter account. A judge approved his settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission after it alleged that the Tesla CEO committed fraud for claiming he secured the necessary funding to take the company private.

The terms of the deal state that Musk must pay a $20 million fine, on top of vacating the role as Tesla chair within 45 days for at least three years. The deal also sought the company to install in place a system to screen all Musk's public statements about the company on any medium.

Tesla will also pay another $20 million fine, and put two independent directors to its board. One of the two independent can replace Musk as chairman as long as the nominee is not connected with Tesla or its affiliates.  

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