How about that steering yoke, huh? Well, while everyone was getting riled up over that, Tesla did another weird thing, which is put a console-caliber gaming rig in some of its cars.
Now, Teslas have had to ability to run games in the past, though they’ve largely been more casual titles you’d find on mobile platforms. That’s not to say those games aren’t great — the list of games on Tesla Arcade previously included Cuphead — but just about anything can run stuff like that.
Contrast that to the hardware update in the newly-refreshed Model S and Model X, which integrates a 10-teraflop machine into the car capable of delivering “gaming on par with today’s newest consoles,” supporting games like The Witcher 3. Indeed, many of the interior images Tesla released yesterday show the title card of CD Projekt Red’s action role-playing game on the main 17-inch infotainment display, with another, more casual-looking racing game running on the second panel for backseat passengers.
For perspective, 10 teraflops of computing power would put Tesla’s hardware on pretty much equal footing with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, which offer 10.28 and 12 teraflops, respectively.
Tesla isn’t saying what silicon is powering this thing, let alone who’s responsible for it. The company does design its own “Full Self-Driving” chip, of course, but that’s geared more for machine learning on account of its dual neural processing units. There is a GPU onboard, though it’s “relatively light,” as described by WikiChip — so you’d think there’d be another GPU onboard dedicated to powering games, especially if backseat passengers are expected to play while the FSD computer has its hands full with assisted driving functions.
So there are many questions currently unanswered relating to the “how” side of things, but equally important is the “why.” This being Tesla, a company that just saw fit to hack its steering wheel in half ostensibly to fulfill some pointless fantasy of the future, the “why” is often difficult to rationalize.
Yes, there are practical scenarios where I could see dipping into a game being an attractive way to kill time, waiting at a Supercharger or at the airport or something. And if you have kids, they’ll probably enjoy gaming on long trips, so long as they aren’t prone to crippling motion sickness.
But the more bite-sized experiences Tesla Arcade already delivers are kind of well-suited for those purposes by nature — or, at least, better suited than a 70-hour RPG. You’re not going to play this thing when you’re not in your car, and you’re not going to run your car to play it. I would hope and pray for a cloud save feature, otherwise, it really is completely useless.
It’s worth highlighting that some suppliers and carmakers have flirted with the idea of more “hardcore” gaming in cars before, but typically these efforts have focused on running games via cloud streaming over a data connection rather than on local hardware, and they’re viewed more as an opportunity once cars become legitimately autonomous, so you can play while you travel.
At last year’s Consumer Electronic Show, I met with an OEM that built a simulated cutaway car interior with Xbox game streaming built into the infotainment stack. It was a neat idea but ultimately impossible right now, considering the spotty nature of modern cellular infrastructure and the fact carriers are more concerned with dazzling download speeds than broad coverage.
Presumably, the most demanding Tesla Arcade games will put the new 17-inch, 2200x1300-resolution center display in the Model S and X to good use, and I’m sure whatever’s on that panel will look fantastic. In the past, certain racing games have even allowed players to steer, accelerate and brake with the car’s wheel and pedals. Oh, and if you’re wondering if you’ll be able to play Cyberpunk 2077 in the car, of course you will.