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Tesla's Elon Musk shares MCU1 retrofit target timeframe, estimates $2k upgrade cost

Tesla Model touchscreen MCU maps [Credit: Tesla]

Elon Musk has provided new details about Tesla’s Media Control Unit (MCU) retrofits for vehicles that are equipped with older infotainment systems. According to the CEO, MCU1 to MCU2 retrofits may start in a few months, though he does not personally recommend it, especially considering its estimated $2,000 cost. Musk has instead suggested that Tesla will release an update to older cars that can optimize the performance of their existing MCUs.

Musk’s recent statements were shared on Twitter while the CEO was interacting with Tesla owners, some of whom owned MCU1-equipped vehicles. The limitations of the older hardware have become more prominent over time, particularly as Tesla rolled out media-heavy features such as the Tesla Theater and the Tesla Arcade. Similar to older hardware in mobile devices, MCU1 vehicles have become slower compared to the company’s newer vehicles like the Raven Model S and X, as well as the Model 3.

Elon Musk has previously stated that MCU1 retrofits would be offered to owners whose vehicles are still equipped with older hardware. The CEO confirmed this following the initial rollout of MCU2 vehicles, and the idea was reiterated after the release of the company’s new Tesla Arcade titles. That being said, a number of Tesla owners have been informed by local service centers that an MCU1 to MCU2 retrofit was not possible.

For the uninitiated, Tesla’s MCU1 is equipped with an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, which is capable but a tad slower than its newer sibling. Meanwhile, the MCU2 runs on an Intel Atom E800 series chip and comes with a faster browser. The unit also renders videos with sound, giving it the capability of running new features such as the Tesla Theater, which includes video streaming apps such as Netflix and YouTube, as well as video games in Tesla Arcade. All Tesla Model 3s run on MCU 2, as well as Model S and Model X units purchased after March 2018. Customers who bought their Model S and X prior to March 2018 use the MCU1.

Many Tesla owners whose vehicles are equipped with MCU1 have been clamoring for an update to avail of features only enjoyed by those using the newer system. Tesla has not left those on MCU1 in the dark and has rolled out several updates to improve the performance of the older infotainment systems. That being said, the gap between the actual capabilities of Tesla’s MCU1 hardware and its MCU2 features such are growing, and it has pretty much reached the point where the infotainment systems of older vehicles are significantly slower than those in newer cars.

In a way, Elon Musk’s recent statements hint that Tesla’s current priority is the rollout of its Hardware 3, which is essential for its Full Self-Driving initiatives. Retrofits for HW2.5 vehicles have already begun, and HW2 vehicles are expected to follow soon. HW3 is Tesla’s custom-designed computer that replaces the old Nvidia computer used for HW 2.5. As noted by Tesla during its Autonomy Day presentation, Hardware 3 was specifically built to achieve true Full Self-Driving capabilities and can enhance the electric car’s processing capability by as much as 1,000 percent.

Nevertheless, it would be wise for Tesla to start rolling out its MCU1 retrofits for older vehicles, even if it’s later than expected. Considering that Tesla owners have shown a willingness to pay for the retrofit, and the CEO himself has confirmed that the upgrade is possible, it is in both Tesla and its customers’ best interest to make sure the vast majority of its fleet are able to enjoy the best that the company has to offer — even if it’s just for infotainment purposes.

Tesla's Elon Musk shares MCU1 retrofit target timeframe, estimates $2k upgrade cost
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