Tesla’s New Linux Kernel Update Is Rolling Out Now

5 months ago by Steven Loveday 45

Tesla Model S

Most everything in a Tesla vehicle relies on the large 17-inch center-mounted touchscreen, which has been in need of an update for quite some time now.

Tesla owners have been waiting for months for the new Linux Kernel update that CEO Elon Musk has spoken so highly of, and now it’s officially arriving.

Tesla is currently pushing out the long-awaited update to its entire fleet. However, additional updates that will make it improved and fully functional, are not yet ready. This sounds a whole lot like the parity situation with second-generation Autopilot.

All of these recent updates to Autopilot 2 and now the new Linux Kernel seem to be lining up nicely with Model 3 production. (Licensed via Brian Williams – SpiedBilde)

The update is going only to the large 17-inch center display for now, and not the digital instrument cluster. The new operating system is Linux OS 4.4. According to Musk, eventually it will be the basis for a much better web browser. As we reported earlier, many Tesla owners don’t even use their in-car browsers, partly due to lack of adequate functionality. In-car apps and overall user interface will see drastic improvements as well.

Being that Tesla now has vehicles on the road that are nearly five years old, there is a worry that the original hardware may not be able to handle many more updates, or support new software. Electrek asked Elon Musk if this was the case, and he admitted that some vehicles are nearing their limitations. Nonetheless, Tesla is still pushing out the updates to its entire fleet.

Once the app improvements and new web browser come through, sometime in July, we will have a better idea of whether or not older models will have the capability to make everything function correctly. This is surely a concept that traditional automakers don’t really experience. There is no expectation that every car in an automaker’s fleet will continue to receive all of the newest tech. At some point, Tesla will obviously need to admit that a line will be drawn.

Surely the automaker is banking on the fact that at that point, many owners will be investing in a new Tesla vehicle.

Source: Electrek

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45 responses to "Tesla’s New Linux Kernel Update Is Rolling Out Now"

  1. FISHEV says:

    “This is surely a concept that traditional automakers don’t really experience.”

    My 2010 Prius got yearly updates via a USB memory sticks. The only thing that is different for the Tesla is doing it via wireless which is only practical due to Tesla building the expensive wireless access into every car.

    More interesting in the article is that Teslas just five years old are being obsoleted due, if the comments in the article are to be credited, to inadequate processing power in the car’s computer.

    That kind of short term, planned (or unplanned) obsolescence is scary when average age of car is 10+ years. I’d guess many of us look on our planned EV purchase of a $60K car to last us at least 10 or more years. If Tesla is building in 5 year obsolescence, I’ll be rethinking that investment.

    1. alohart says:

      That’s no different from any computing device including smartphones whose CPU’s were much less powerful 5 years ago.

      1. FISHEV says:

        Smartphones don’t cost $100K or even $60K nor is there an expectation that they will be kept 10+ years.

        The comparison is not valid.

        1. SparkEV says:

          You can still drive your Tesla even without these “fluff” upgrades. You may not be able to use some of your smartphone apps without upgrade that require new OS which require new hardware. Plugshare is an example of this; you can’t run it below Android 4.x.

    2. Peter says:

      That does mean that the car laptop or smartphone won’t work. It will just not be as good a brand new one.

      My laptop (MacBook) is 10 years old and still works great. My iPhone is also 10 years old and also works great. My Tesla is only 3 years old but I am sure that if anything I will have to buy a new battery when it is 10 years old. I have changed batteries on both my laptop and smartphone ones so far.

      1. Obin olson says:

        Everyone, Peter rolls on a 10 year old iPhone. Watch out for Peter. His model s most likely turns on its auto pilot daily to keep Peter on the road and out of trouble. Lol

        How’s that gen 1 iPhone treating you Peter ? 😉 them pixels on the screen starting to play games with your mind yet?

        God bless Peter really, he’s probably just saving his pennies to buy a model S so he’s still rolling with his iPhone 1.

    3. Edinho Carvalho says:

      Why should you think that the entire car is obsolete just cause the computer is obsolete? Tesla can upgrade the computer, for some money, and you can keep the entire car, that is still cutting-edge tecnology. Why not? You are thinking like traditional cars, but electric cars should be thinked in some completely different way.

    4. Mikael says:

      So your Prius that doesn’t get any substantial updates and basically is the exact same vehicle from you bought it became obsolete as soon as it left the dealer?

      It must have been hard for you getting over your instantly obsolete car. Yoga and/or therapy can work wonders sometimes for some people.

      1. JIMJFOX says:

        Then YOU should do yoga & therapy.
        Might help you overcome your snide superiority

        1. L'amata says:

          There you go ..L M A O …stick that in your pipe & smoke that ! Nice shot!

    5. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      Non-AP cars, AP1 cars and AP2 cars receive updates.

      It’s just obvious that cars with more hardware with receive more updates, especially at a time when there’s a focus on getting AP2 to parity with AP1.

  2. SparkEV says:

    In-car browser is just open invitation for malware. It’s a bad idea. I won’t be using it if Tesla 3 comes with it, and hopefully there’s an option to disable all non-Tesla network traffic from every browser / app.

  3. FISHEV says:

    Advantage of Unix based system is that the browser (or any software that accesses outside data) can be run in a virtual machine and isolated from the system running the car.

    Hacking a Tesla would likely require getting into Tesla’s system that talks directly to car functions. I’m sure enterprising hackers world wide are furiously working on it. What a coup that would be, having a bunch of Tesla’s performing like a marching band.

    1. SparkEV says:

      You can run VM from windows, too. In fact, that’s what I do. Sometimes I run Knoppix (ISO as DVD) so that nothing gets saved.

      But do Tesla “fluff” run in VM? Even if they are, I wouldn’t trust them unless open source and many eye balls having examined them already.

      1. Terawatt says:

        By admitting to the use of an optical drive in 2017 you have disqualified yourself from any further commenting on computing technology.

        Even my parents, both in their seventies, put optical drives behind them many years ago. What are you doing??!?

        1. unlucky says:

          I think he’s saying he mounts an ISO as a pretend bootable DVD.

          SparkEV should migrate to the new LEAF. From the interior pictures we can tell it has an optical drive still.

          Why I have no idea.

          1. unlucky says:

            Actually, maybe I should explain better. A .ISO is a file made from an image of an optical disc.

            I think he is saying he mounts a file as a pretend optical disc, not that he uses an optical disc.

          2. SparkEV says:

            Unlucky is correct. I mount the ISO image in VM, no need for physical media.

            I wonder if the new Leaf can do that, too. For example, put bunch of CD ISO images in one DVD or Blueray and playback the uncompressed audio. Of course, FLAC would work a lot better…

            1. unlucky says:

              A SD card slot or USB port would work a lot better. And even the previous LEAF had a USB port. The previous LEAF would play mp3 and WMA files, no FLAC/SHN/AIFF, etc.

              Skip the optical drive. You can get a 32GB USB drive for peanuts and it holds at least 3x as much as a DVD.

              Just put in a USB key and start playing.

              Maybe the newer LEAFs support AIFFs, FLAC, etc. so you can have your uncompressed audio if you want.

              There is no reason to have an optical drive. Manufacturers have previously sent out map updates on them but even that is obsolete. You can send those on SD card or USB sticks now.

              1. SparkEV says:

                Well, new Leaf has optical drive, so I was wondering if it can do anything fancy.

    2. unlucky says:

      Virtual machines are not a function of Unix. Unix has process separation but so does Windows. Virtual machines are a function of hypervisors.

      Given how a browser works it’s probably better just to sandbox the process than virtualize it. Just don’t give it access to memory or files it didn’t write itself and don’t give anything else in the machine access to its files and you will have isolated the browser.

      1. Terawatt says:

        Chrome does that already. It not only ensures injected code does not get the same privileges the browser process itself enjoys, but it also provides more bullet-proof insulation between tabs, thereby making some kinds of snooping a lot harder, and of course ensuring a script can crash at most one tab, not the browser itself.

        The OS still provides the process insulation though, and it’s not really possible to make it completely water tight.

  4. notting says:

    “As we reported earlier, many Tesla owners don’t even use their in-car browsers, […]”

    In other words: Many people simple don’t need it. And if you don’t have an online connection because you don’t really need it, it makes the system much more safe. Then there’re only very limited reasons for updating. So why spending much money for it, especially if you have a smartphone/tablet with you anyway?!

    That’s why I have very cheap radio in my car, without internet. So update reasons won’t occur very often.

    notting

    1. Mikael says:

      If your radio stops working properly does that mean that you don’t need radio anymore?

      Flawless logic….

  5. unlucky says:

    Honestly, that we’re even talking about this means telematics still have a long way to do. Users care about functionality, not kernel versions. It took decades for computers to get to the “appliance” stage from specialty items. Now we have to wait for cars to do it too.

    1. GeorgeS says:

      Hey unlucky,

      Why is it that Linux makes for a better browser?

      1. SparkEV says:

        Linux doesn’t. Windows is poor, because many script-kiddies target windows. If Linux became as popular, it’d suffer just as much as Windoze.

        In fact, browser in Tesla is like a giant “hack me” sign as being a high profile target.

        1. Terawatt says:

          The main reason is much simpler than that: people don’t keep their systems up to date.

          Look at the recent big attacks, of which WannaCry was the first. Those with up to date OS and virus definitions had no problems, those without had huge problems. Consequently, sectors where money was seen as better spent on other great than new computers, such as public hospitals, suffered the most.

          1. SparkEV says:

            Lots of Linux people don’t update their system, either. But the reason for “security” is that it pays whole lot less. For Tesla, infamy of breaking into Tesla might be worthy reward for some.

            1. Windbourne says:

              Tesla has been very tested for comp security. Unlike the rest, this car is hard to to break into because it is so locked down.
              With a new kernel change, hopefully Tesla devouts a few coders to working security on kernel.

              And yes, the browser is sandboxed, not virtual. The later is expensive.

        2. Windbourne says:

          Illogical reasoning by assuming that cracking is based on numbers of OS.
          In companies, Linux/Unix accounts for 40-45% of the main servers. Yet, nearly all of the cracked systems are windows ( esp those that outsource production access to India ).
          SKs do not go for windows because there are loads on desktop. They go for windows because they are easy.

          A better example of where to see this in action is bank vs store robbery. Banks used to be main targets back in 60s and before because of ease and this is where money was. Then banks put in security systems and limited takes, as well as made it easy to bust them. So robbers took to 7-11 and other convince stores. They used to take 10-20k at a time.so, convince stores made it so that there was less than a couple of hundreds available. So now, robbers are going online because it is easier.

          Basically, targets have nothing to do with numbers of them, but ease of cracking. Windows is still a long ways from being secured because it is a s*** OS with bad coders working at MS, BUT, if the day comes that Windows is more secured than apple and Linux, they will be the target.

      2. unlucky says:

        It depends on what you are comparing against. If you’re comparing against Windows (desktop) or MacOS then it doesn’t make for a better browser. If you’re comparing against Windows (Mobile) or iOS it might make for a marginally better browser. If you’re comparing against an RTOS (traditional embedded system OS) then it makes for a much better browser because the process separation and virtual memory allow you to increase security and run the bloated, asset-heavy websites you see nowadays (present company excluded).

        There’s no real reason Tesla is using Linux for their operating system other than it is freely available and free. Free is a very nice price, everyone loves to keep costs down.

        Ultimately, the OS shouldn’t matter to the customer. And in this case, versus Windows or a slightly older Linux it doesn’t really matter.

        If there is a big improvement in the browser it will be because Tesla upgrade/updated the browser itself.

        1. GeorgeS says:

          Ok thx

        2. SparkEV says:

          Browser security is OS independent (to a degree). Poor implementation in RTOS would be just as bad as Windoze. Windoze, like Linux, run in protected mode, so compared to some RTOS that must run in HW without protected mode ability, they are far safer.

          There are many other free OS besides Linux. But Linux is most supported and documented. This is probably the biggest reason why Tesla (and Google with Android) went with Linux.

          1. unlucky says:

            Free OSes besides linux? What are you going to use? Plan 9?

            Most free OSes are RTOSes. And I already explained why you don’t want those.

            Make no mistake why Google or Tesla selected linux. They selected it because it is free.

            Google doesn’t need any support from anyone on linux, they do their own improvements and fixes. And BTW, Google didn’t select linux for Android. They bought Android. Android (the company that existed before Google bought them) selected linux. They selected it because it was free.

            1. SparkEV says:

              Minix is free. So is (was?) BeOS. There are many others, too (eg. FreeDOS, Mach BSD). Free isn’t the only reason. Linux comes with oodles of documentation, which makes development and finding engineers whole lot easier.

              1. unlucky says:

                BeOS is gone. Minix is not a fully-fledged OS, it provides RTOS functionality. We both agreed that’s not as good, didn’t we?

                Windows comes with oodles of documentation too. Difference is Linux is free.

            2. Steven says:

              There’s also FreeBSD.
              It isn’t Linux.

          2. Windbourne says:

            Wrong again. Because MS integrated their browser with windows, the browser exposed many of windows flaws to the net. This is why Msie is targeted.

    2. Anonymous says:

      The Linux kernel provides low level APIs to the rest of the operating system that sits on top of it. Updating kernel versions generally does not result in user visible changes. This article makes about as much sense as saying: “Wow, my web browser looks so much better ever since I updated the device driver for my mouse.” It sounds like Tesla is pushing an OS update that among other things updates the kernel, but it’s weird to be even talking about the kernel part of the update; consumers should not care at all if the thread scheduling algorithm in the OS that runs their infotainment system was tweaked slightly.

      1. Terawatt says:

        You are correct except for the important facet that is performance, which can potentially improve across the board as a result of a kernel update. Generally it does not, however, since that implies the previous kernel was very poorly optimized.

        1. unlucky says:

          Performance can also get worse across the board as part of a kernel update.

          I know everyone who ever made an OS update talks about how it’s faster than the old one. But all you have to do is look at a machine that is five years old running a five year old OS versus running a new OS to see the lies in that.

          Companies spend time optimizing their OSes. And they spend a lot of time adding new features that slow them down too.

          1. Windbourne says:

            Linux != Windows.

      2. Windbourne says:

        This update of the kernel, took it from 2.6 up to 4.4. HUGE changes. In particular, integration of video into the kernel. In addition, during 3.x, Linus emphasized working on user issues, and less on server issue. I have been out of 4 so do not know the focus here, but u can bet that plenty of changes that enables Tesla to take advantage. BTW, this update was regarded as big Todo by company, but owners knew that much would happen with it. Next couple of updates will focus on browser, but also on multimedia , namely our radio.

  6. Martin Winlow says:

    Would there be a reasonable expectation that some aftermarket company would provide a way to upgrade the computer hardware, or, indeed, that tesla may offer a way of doing it?

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