At Computex 2021 (aka Taipei International Information Technology Show), AMD revealed that it is providing Tesla with APU and RDNA2-based GPUs to use in its new Model S and Model X infotainment systems. This explains the bold claims of Tesla, noted on its website, that “[u]p at 10 teraflops of processing power enables in-car gaming at today’s most recent console level in its Model S and Model X vehicles. Essentially, Tesla is putting a gaming computer on wheels, but more importantly, this shows that the company is doubling down on a future of connected smart vehicles.
The current MCU2 (the second generation media control unit) found in all Tesla models on sale today uses an Intel Atom processor, which is a low-end product typically found in budget laptops. This new chipset from AMD – some Tesla fans have dubbed it “MC3” – is expected to be a major upgrade, and Tesla says it will be in vehicles this month. The APU (a processor with a less efficient integrated GPU) typically manages the multimedia system, using less power to handle simple tasks. High power dedicated GPU is used for high demand applications such as AAA games.
According to an earlier leak from developer Patrick Schur on Twitter, this high-powered chip is based on AMD’s Navi 23 GPU, which should put it more or less on par with Sony’s PS5 game console in terms of computing power. brute. Since the new Tesla infotainment display has a resolution of 2200 x 1300, gaming performance should be at least equivalent to that of a PS5 connected to a 4K TV (3840 x 2160).
Overall, this new chipset from AMD is a huge step up from the old Intel chip; Think of it like going from a $ 400 netbook to a $ 2,000 gaming laptop. However, this shift to a high-end chipset may put Tesla at a slight manufacturing disadvantage for a while, as the current global shortage of chips and high demand from gamers and crypto miners means GPUs are in short supply. Demand is far greater than supply, and manufacturing cannot scale quickly to meet demand, so don’t expect this new chipset to spill over to higher-volume Teslas such as the model 3 and model Y.
(Speaking of crypto-mining, the AMD GPU is expected to provide 40-60 MH / s – millions of hashes per second – for Ethereum mining, but don’t buy a Model S as a mining rig. current rate, profit is around $ 4 per day, you will need 20,000 days to achieve return on investment, unless you hold “diamond hands” and ETH moons someday. It’s not like Tesla will let you install mining software, anyway.)
Software and future potential
Aside from discussions of cheesy hardware, what does this new chipset bring to the in-car experience? A smoother infotainment user interface should be the most notable benefit. The 2018 Intel Atom chip has started showing its age as Tesla has added more functions over the years; the in-car browser cannot even scroll smoothly on this site, motortrend.com. And entertainment features like Netflix and YouTube UI started to feel slow. The new chip will almost certainly improve the user interface experience.
Being able to run AAA games – big budget video games, in other words – is a gimmick that helps sell an expensive car, but it’s a gimmick that no other brand has attempted. But there’s more than that beneath the surface: This high-performance hardware paves the way for additional revenue for Tesla in the future, should it decide to sell games and apps on its own platform. The gaming industry is worth $ 150 billion; Apple’s AppStore grossed around $ 64 billion in 2020.
Tesla has the ability to reach a user base of over a million homeowners, so selling software and subscription features is a potential revenue stream that’s hard to ignore. When driver assistance technology becomes more mature in the years to come and drivers don’t have to watch the road at all times, the in-car infotainment system could become the main feature of car buyers.
It took Apple’s iOS 13 years to build up a customer base capable of generating $ 64 billion in one year. Given that Tesla intends to develop true autonomous driving systems in the future, it makes sense to start thinking about how to lock down its customer base in its software ecosystem.
To see how the current MCU stacks up, we’ve kicked off a few AAA games for an unscientific test. It worked… with a few caveats.
As mentioned above, due to the token shortage, don’t expect to be playing AAA games in Model 3 and Model Y anytime soon. But what if you really wanted to play high-end games while queuing for an available Supercharger in a parking lot (stationary, absolutely NOT driving down the road), and that you didn’t have the latest Model S or Model X? Well, Tesla’s on-board browser is based on Google’s Chromium – the open source code that underpins Chrome and many other browsers – and Google offers a game streaming service called Stadia, so in theory you can play it. AAA titles via the on-board browser. .
I plugged my Stadia controller into a car USB port, opened the browser, and signed into my Stadia account. And it worked. I got to play Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on the screen of a Tesla Model 3.
But it didn’t work out well. In fact, it was almost unplayable, due to frequent disconnections and numerous input delays. Game streaming requires a stable internet connection, and the car’s network module failed to provide it. Whether over a full bar LTE cellular network or a stable WIFI home internet, the MCU2 struggled to maintain a stable connection. Still, it works, from a technical standpoint, and the best internet mod that will come with the MCU3’s hardware upgrades should bring Tesla’s dream of premium gameplay to a small screen near you.