Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s Model S is one of the most high-tech cars on the road. A recent teardown of the sedan by Andrew Rassweiler, an analyst at the research firm IHS, revealed that the electronic architecture of the vehicle is radically different from the approach other automakers take. The components, design and manufacturing process of its 17-inch dashboard have more in common with a smartphone or tablet than a conventional car.
Tesla does most of the electronics design work in-house
Rassweiler dissected each subsystem of 2013 Model S, including the powertrain, safety systems, air conditioning systems, and of course the dashboard. The teardown still continues, but IHS has shared some of the findings with media. The research firm said Tesla takes the same approach in designing its cars as Apple and Samsung.
Usually, automakers rely on third-parties such as Panasonic for the design of electronics. But Tesla has done a lot of custom design work on the electronics itself. Further, the IHS analysts found a 1.4GHz quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor that handles the primary computing work behind the 17-inch screen. NVIDIA’s chips are packages along with other components inside a Tegra Visual Computing Module. There are two of them inside Tesla Model S.
But NVIDIA’s processors are a bit less costly than the touchscreen, the most expensive component of the dashboard. The 17-inch display is as responsive as those of smartphones and tablets. Why? Because it uses a capacitive glass overlay produced by Taiwan’s TPK, which supplied the same thing to Apple for the first iPhone.
Tesla’s display made by Innolux
The display was produced by Taiwan-based Innolux, said Rassweiler. What’s more, Tesla did a lot of customization for the display. The Elon Musk-led company itself designed 10 printed circuit boards, reports Re/Code. IHS usually reveals the cost of individual components in its teardown reports for smartphones. But it didn’t mention the cost of individual components used in Model S.
Audio amplifier chips were supplied by German firm S1NN. IHS also found chips made by Texas Instruments, Freescale Semiconductor, Qualcomm and Altera inside the Tesla car. The research firm said it was the most complex teardown ever undertaken by its team.
Note that Tesla consistently updates its cars. So, the Model S may have undergone some changes.