Nikkei Business Publications recently conducted a teardown of the Tesla Model 3. While it's one of the most inexpensive EVs in the U.S. right now, its technology proves to be many years ahead of legacy OEMs, at least according to Nikkei's teardown and that of others like Sandy Munro.
Nikkei points out that "Elon Musk's scrappy company" – which delivered less than 400,000 cars last year and has been around for less than 20 years – is some six years or more ahead of longstanding "industry giants" like Toyota and Volkswagen that sell ~10 million cars per year.
Nikkei's analysis points to Tesla's Full Self-Driving computer (Hardware 3) as the company's most advanced component. It goes on to report that a "stunned engineer" from a "major Japanese automaker" checked out the central control unit and simply said, "We cannot do it."
Tesla hasn't yet released its Full Self-Driving system, and its release is actually far behind CEO Elon Musk's estimates. Nonetheless, the fact that it could be six years ahead of the established competition is compelling. Nikkei shares:
"The module -- released last spring and found in all new Model 3, Model S and Model X vehicles -- includes two custom, 260-sq.-millimeter AI chips. Tesla developed the chips on its own, along with special software designed to complement the hardware. The computer powers the cars' self-driving capabilities as well as their advanced in-car "infotainment" system.
The Model 3's "full self-driving computer" consists of two boards: one with custom AI chips for autonomous driving, and a media control unit for the "infotainment" system. A water-cooled heat sink is installed between the two boards."
The publication reports that industry experts expect electronic platforms like the one Tesla has already implemented across its lineup will take hold in the auto industry around 2025 or later. Automakers such as Toyota and VW have the talent, resources, and finances to pull this off well ahead of 2025, but one fear is they simply can't yet figure it out.
Added to the above, Nikkei mentions another reason legacy automakers may be waiting. It says large automakers feel the need to continue using complex systems and appeasing a long list of suppliers. A young company like Tesla is free to either produce and manufacture the technology on its own or seek out the best tech available. Nikkei explains:
"The real reason for holding off?
Automakers worry that computers like Tesla's will render obsolete the parts supply chains they have cultivated over decades, the engineer said.
For suppliers that depend on these components, and their employees, this is a matter of life and death.
Most parts inside the Model 3 do not bear the name of a supplier. Instead, many have the Tesla logo, including the substrates inside the ECUs. This suggests the company maintains tight control over the development of almost all key technologies in the car."