How Tesla is able to maintain the top spot as electronics pioneer
When you think of innovations in the field of electric driving, Tesla is probably one of the first brands that comes to mind. How does Tesla manage that?
To answer that question properly, we have to go back to 2008, the year in which Tesla started selling their first car, the Roadster. Since then, the brand has grown in record time from a rookie in the automotive industry to one of the most appealing and prominent brands in the market. Tesla has not exactly been sitting still. After the first huge hit, the Model S, the Model X, Model Y and Model 3 soon followed. At the end of this year, the new generation Roadster and the Semi truck will probably follow. It has happened so fast that it is hard to imagine that the Model S has been around for ten years this year…
Big lead for Tesla
Tesla has therefore built up a great deal of know-how about electric powertrains in a relatively short time. For that reason, Tesla can now continue to pioneer, because there is a big lead over the competition. If electric cars only had a battery, other brands could quickly take over the number 1 position in the EV market. But right now, this is impossible. A strong statement, but that is the finding of Asian Nikkei Business Publications. They took a closer look at the electronics that Tesla has been using since April 2019 and had them examined by a group of automotive engineers. Not just a bunch of students, but engineers from a Japanese car brand whose name (not unexpectedly) is not mentioned.
The results of the study were quite worrying for the engineers. At least, from their perspective. The technology that will be used in Teslas from 2019 will be available in the cars of this Japanese car brand from 2025 at the earliest. In other words, Tesla is six years ahead of this competitor. Not exactly a reassuring thought for these researchers. Now it may seem obvious that this lead is based entirely on pure technical knowledge, but that turns out not to be the case: the problem lies in the supply chain that many of the major car brands have built up over the years.
The architecture of many brands is based on electronics supplied by many different suppliers. This means that dozens of ECUs are needed. This is different with Tesla, because they work together with a select group of suppliers and can develop a lot in-house, Tesla is able to reduce the number of ECUs in its cars to a fraction. That means that implementing software and hardware updates is a lot easier. An important role is played by Tesla's integrated central control unit with self-developed AI chips. This allows the car to process enormous amounts of data in order to make autonomous driving functions available. Thanks to the large amount of data, Tesla is miles ahead in the field of machine learning. They already have a much better idea of where improvements are possible and are therefore six years ahead of many other car brands.
Now you may wonder why the 'traditional car brands' are not switching to the same architecture as Tesla, but that is not so easy to achieve. For many of these car brands, the suppliers are currently responsible for the electronic parts. The car manufacturer is therefore not responsible for defects. This is therefore a major dilemma for many car brands. Will we see more and more ECUs that are produced by the car manufacturer itself within the next few years or will they not dare to accept this change in their supply chain? In any case, Tesla can continue to pioneer for the time being and possibly only increase their lead even more.