"This hardware, combined with Tesla's existing over-the-air update capabilities, will allow the automaker to continue improving its self-driving capabilities with minimal inconvenience for owners," said Karl Brauer, executive publisher for Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, said in comments sent to CNBC. "It's a big up-front commitment to self-driving technology that other automakers may not be willing to make at this point."
However, Michael Harley, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said it is "actually not a challenge to offer a full range of Level 4 autonomous hardware to any new vehicle — this is essentially a collection of cameras, sensors, radars and processors. The most critical piece of the puzzle, which is missing from Tesla's announcement, is the car-to-car communication that ensures full Level 4 autonomous riding is safe for passengers and pedestrians alike."
Tesla cars made prior to the introduction of the new hardware will still see improvements based on such things as fleet learning and software updates, but their capability will ultimately be "limited by the fundamental hardware."
This development follows a recent update to Tesla's Autopilot system where the technology was tweaked to make greater use of the car's on-board radar, and, among other things, included a warning system that will disable the feature if drivers ignore multiple warnings to keep their hands on the wheel.
The Autopilot system has drawn both praise and criticism, especially since its alleged involvement in some high-profile crashes. Tesla has defended the technology, saying it is safe when used as directed.