The power of a living room console on board a car: yes, but why? Tesla is offering an AMD Ryzen chip to power its infotainment system, with promises of exceptional performance. Let’s go back to what this allows today, and what the future holds for us.
Since the announcement of the new Tesla Model S and Model X in 2021, the American manufacturer has opted for a new processor which aims to manage the infotainment system. Farewell Intel, which is replaced by AMD and its Ryzen processor, offering many more possibilities.
With computing power comparable to the latest consoles next generationand announcements from Elon Musk specifying that AAA games could be ported to the embedded system in the brand’s vehicles, where are we today?
We are going to come back in this file to what was promised by Tesla, what we find on the whole range in terms of infotainment, by also asking ourselves the question of what this power can be used for in the future.
No more Intel Atom, hello AMD Ryzen
What is commonly called the MCU at Tesla, for Media Control Unit, corresponds to the infotainment system displayed on the central screen of the brand’s vehicles. In 2022, we are on the third generation of MCUs, based on AMD’s Ryzen platform.
With a promised computing power of 10 TeraFLOPS, the promise of much better fluidity compared to older systems is obviously fulfilled, as we reported in our recent test of the Tesla Model 3 Propulsion.
Since 2018, an Intel Atom processor has been at the heart of the system on all Tesla models, while the first generations of Model S and Model X that left the factory between 2012 and 2018 featured an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, which accused the kick and was quite slow today.
In early 2021, Elon Musk argued that the Tesla Model S and Model X equipped with this AMD Ryzen could run Cyberpunk 2077 Where The Witcher 3resource-intensive AAA games. Still, a year later, there is still no sign of these games on board Tesla vehicles. Let’s see what this AMD Ryzen allows, and what it brings compared to the previous Intel Atom.
No AAA games, or exclusive apps…yet
For several years, it has been possible to play a few video games on the central screen of Teslas, which are generally not very demanding on resources. For example, we can cite the game 2048a game of chess or some retro titles like Storm Where Missile Command. There is of course no need for an AMD Ryzen to play this kind of titles: it was therefore expected some exclusives on the new MCU, something that has not yet arrived.
Even in the latest 2021 updates that brought the video game Soniconly the first generation MCU (Nvidia Tegra 3) was excluded, with the MCU2’s Intel Atom considered powerful enough for a game released on a home console over 30 years ago.
In terms of on-board applications, there is no exclusivity either: everything that is available today on the latest Tesla equipped with AMD Ryzen are also available on those with the Intel Atom. What the manufacturer called “Theater” and which includes shortcuts to YouTube and Netflix in particular, is however much more usable with the latest vehicles.
One of the big negative points of the current architecture was indeed felt on the navigation within the YouTube, Netflix applications, or even on the Internet browser. Scroll an Internet page gave the impression of being at the limits of the Intel Atom processor, and made browsing quite unpleasant.
Unlike most vehicles on the market which have Android Auto or Apple Carplay on board, and which thus delegate the computing power to the owner’s smartphone, Tesla has decided to assume its independence from these two tech giants. He therefore needs all the computing power possible in his infotainment system, today, but it also needs to be efficient over time.
A future that will require much more the embedded system
If today the few new features offered by Tesla are only in their infancy and we are entitled to wonder what it can be used for in a car, we must keep in mind that the manufacturer has no doubt ideas that will not materialize for a few years.
Offering a few games today not only allows Elon Musk’s firm to stand out from the rest of the automotive industry and get people talking about it, but also to shape the infotainment of tomorrow.
When the legislation will have evolved and the autonomous driving technologies will make it possible to no longer watch what is happening on the road, what will we do in vehicles during the journeys? If some people envision a future with a laptop on their lap or a smartphone in their hand when traveling by car, Elon Musk has a completely different vision in mind: taking advantage of the central screen, which is becoming the new source of entertainment. .
In this future, near or far depending on your convictions, you will for example connect a wireless controller to the on-board system of a Tesla, and will be able to launch AAA video games via the Steam platform, while driving, while the vehicle takes care of get you to your destination.
To perform this kind of action, it’s a safe bet that a powerful processor will of course be essential, which probably explains the choice of AMD Ryzen today. Since the brand’s vehicles are offered at a price of between 50,000 and 140,000 euros, it is indeed necessary to offer a system now that is ready to face the future, without having to go back to the checkout each time. evolution.
How about heading to a Tesla App Store?
In addition to a future platform that would make it possible to play very resource-intensive games, the idea of a Tesla-specific application store regularly comes to the fore: this would undoubtedly make a lot of sense.
Like Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store, a platform that would allow developers to offer third-party applications for a Tesla is attractive for many owners, and will be for the manufacturer, ensuring it a substantial source of income through the sale of paid applications.
If some Tesla owners have been complaining for years about, for example, getting Apple Music in their vehicle, or Waze, and Android Auto and Apple Carplay will probably never arrive, having an application store would instantly fill the immense majority of requests.
It would then be easy to be able to use the large central screen to display what the passengers of the vehicle want, whether it is a game, a video, music or even more sophisticated journey planning applications than what is currently offered. .
A new vision of infotainment
As is the case in many other areas, Tesla is standing apart with its infotainment system by deciding to emancipate itself from the rest of the industry which does not seem to have the same resources in terms of software development.
If a few other manufacturers (Volkswagen, Ford, or the latest born like Rivian) have also followed suit in terms of remote updates, no one has decided to develop a system as complete and independent as that of Tesla – although that Mercedes’ MBUX on-board system is promising, but paying.
Within a Renault Mégane E-Tech or Volvo C40 Recharge, Android Automotive today offers interesting features, as well as a Play Store to download applications and improve the overall experience. But the control that Renault or Volvo has over all this will necessarily remain very limited.
Tesla takes advantage of its vertical integration and software know-how to control everything. The long-term bet is as follows: minimizing costs while guaranteeing an excellent experience on all of its vehicles.
Today, this is done via the central display which is controlled by an AMD Ryzen chip. But tomorrow it could be handled by an in-house developed processor, as was the case with the fully autonomous driving computer that replaced the old Nvidia computer since 2019.
With such on-board power today, Tesla impresses and shows that it is able to offer both powerful vehicles, capable of making long journeys with ease using the network of Superchargers, but which can also offer new features in the future.
Today, however, it’s clear that the power of AMD Ryzen is underutilized, but that won’t last forever. The first features exclusive to this platform could see the light of day before the end of 2022, the rumor being that the Tesla App Store would be planned upstream of the first deliveries of Cybertruck.
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