Tesla’s Investor Day was yesterday, Wednesday 2023-03-01. As with all the special event days (AI Day, Battery Day, AI Day 2), yesterday’s Investor Day just cannot be appreciated by most people. Tesla is just looking further into the future than almost everyone understands.
This morning, I quickly looked at Rob Mauer’s 28-minute “Super Cut” of the event. I was astounded to see that he excluded one of the most critical and impactful parts of the presentation: Software. And he is arguably the most respected and followed Telsa YouTube vlogger.
I know that making these “Super Cuts” is very difficult in trying to understand what to include and exclude. Also, in the presentation’s Software section, there was not a concise statement or section that could be included to demonstrate the impact of Tesla’s software work. Yet, I truly believe that software prowess is one of Tesla’s greatest assests. Also, it is one of the most difficult for competitors to match.
It is not just about software. It is Tesla’s software + vertical integration. They make most of the software-driven controllers that are critical in today’s advanced cars. Then the software team works alongside of the hardware teams to end up with a synergy that simply is NOT possible with the conventional method of building cars from parts. You can hear this directly from the presentation here.
Hardware + Software
This hardware+software design standard is what allows Tesla vehicles to get better over time. A few months ago, I experienced this with my recently purchased used Model 3. Via a software update, there were many improvements, but one I especially like is that the turn indicator will automatically cancel when the indicator is being used for a lane change or merge. It is like, “Duh, of course, that is the way it should work.” But, I don’t have to wait to buy a new car to get this feature!
Another example they specifically mention in the presentation was of “Predictive Air Suspension” settings for the Model S. Since they have a fleet of cars driving roads, Tesla can record road roughness and use this data to preset the appropriate suspension before the car hits such roads.
And this is really just a hint of what is possible in the Tesla world. Think about mapping data. Google may have 1000s of cars mapping roads, but Tesla has MILLIONS! I really look forward to the day when they are able to use this immense dataflow to further benefit the cars on the road!
Related to this, I have explored using the FSD (Full Self Driving) feature in my Model 3 in Cincinnati. I have come to the conclusion that because the density of Tesla cars is less in my area, my mapping data is not as good. As the mapping data improves, the FSD driving experience will also get better. So sweet!
But, it goes much deeper than this. With the “Predictive Air Suspension” feature mentioned above, Tesla was able to pretest in the field. They push out a software update to the fleet that uses the feature in a test-only passive mode to ensure and tune it prior to actually turning it on. This is incredible!
Software in the Assembly Process
In Tesla’s design of their assembly lines, they asked, “How can our smart components help with the building/assembly process?” They realized that the software can help here as well by running tests at every step along the way.
When a component is installed, the software verifies that this is the right component for the car being built, runs firmware updates if necessary, checks configuration settings, and runs all the tests for that unit, and for all the integrations of that unit with other installed units in the car. Any anomaly can be immediately fixed. This is mind-bogglingly great stuff!
This internal, component-level diagnostics, is also used for servicing delivered vehicles. When a service appointment is scheduled diagnostics are run on the user’s vehicle prior to the service call. Tesla reported that this is currently enabling complete problem diagnosis AND repair parts available for a THIRD of the service calls PRIOR to service appointment. Software at its best!
More Impact of Software Integrations
Another cool update mentioned in the presentation was their update that allows you to share your Tesla via a TEST MESSAGE! Most Tesla owners use their phones as the key to gain secure access to their Teslas. This in itself is cool, but somewhat old news by now. But this foundation allowed for the update that allows owners to share their cars by a simple text message.
User profiles (seat, steering, mirror, and other configurations) are now also synched in the cloud. If you have multiple Teslas, your profile will configure for the currently used car. Get a loaner Tesla while your car is worked on, in some locations, it automatically configures the loaner to your settings!
Similarly, the service locations can gain access to your car while in their care.
These benefits are available today. But they are really part of the foundations of Tesla’s plans for managing a fleet of autonomous vehicles. Kinda scary!
I really think it is difficult fully appreciate the breadth and depth of Tesla’s innovations! I’m not saying that Software is the most important part of the 2023 Investor’s day, but it might be the most underrated.