Tesla released their latest self-driving computer, known as Hardware 4 (HW4), earlier this year on the Model S and Model X, later expanding it to the Model Y (although with some differences). Not only is there a new computer but also updated cameras, and based on a video comparing the footage to the previous Hardware 3 (HW3) cameras, the difference in quality is substantial.
The comparison was put together by FSD Beta tester AIDRIVR, who used a 2018 Model S and 2023 Model Y. To get the most accurate comparison possible, the two vehicles were driven along the same roads side-by-side (or one in front of the other). As you can see in the video below, there is a big (but unsurprising) difference in quality from the 1.2 megapixel HW3 cameras compared to the 5 megapixel cameras from HW4.
Tesla Autopilot HW3 and HW4 footage compared (much bigger difference than expected): pic.twitter.com/VTqLxKbcU4
— AI DRIVR (@AIDRIVR) August 8, 2023
The footage from the HW4 cameras is much crisper, allowing you to easily read license plates and road signs that are blurred and largely indecipherable in HW3. There is also a substantial difference in the rear camera, in which the fish-eye effect is much more pronounced allowing you to see a significantly wider field of view. It should be noted that the rear camera view on the 2018 Model S used in this video does not appear to have as much of a fish-eye effect as the one on either our 2019 Model 3 or 2022 Model Y.
Other things we noticed in the video is improved image quality in night time footage, enhanced brightness control for improved exposure, and more vibrant and ‘true to life’ color representation, most notably the red in the stop signs actually appears to be red and not orange, like it does on HW3.
How this improved quality translates into improvements for Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta remains to be seen. Elon Musk has said that cars equipped with HW4 are about 3 to 5 times more capable than those equipped with HW3, but we don’t know how much of that, if anything at all, is attributed to the improved quality of the video footage.
After seeing this footage, there will of course be the question of whether the cameras can be retrofitted. Based on previous comments from Musk, we already know that Tesla won’t offer a HW3 to HW4 retrofit, but the same applies to updating the cameras as the HW4 side repeaters have entirely different connectors.