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Autopilot/Lane Departure Retrofit

First Tesla has stated there will be no retrofit for the Autopilot, Lane departure, speed warning, etc. that was introduced in October 2014.  I’ve worked up an estimate of what it would take, either as a Do-it-yourself project or what it might be if Tesla were to charge for it.  See the 2016 update at the bottom for one person who has done the retrofit.

Let’s look at what it would take to do an Autopilot Retrofit. We’ll have to make a few assumptions that may well be false:

  • No aluminum structures were changed (i.e. new holes, brackets, etc.)
  • All the existing electrical connections are unchanged in new cars
  • Tesla will sell you the parts you need (they won’t)

The parts list:

  • Windshield
  • Camera and Autopilot module (behind windshield)
  • Rear view mirror
  • Entire car wiring harness (or custom harnesses and cables)
  • 12 long-range ultrasonic sensors
  • Front bumper fascia (might be modifiable)
  • Rear bumper fascia
  • Nose cone (if no parking sensors)
  • Radar module and mounting
  • Front lower grill
  • Parking Sensor controller
  • Electric brakes (4)/span>
  • Electronic brake controller/span>
  • Hydraulic brake backup system
  • Turn signal stalk
  • Cruise control stalk
  • Steering column
  • Electric steering rack
  • Hi-res instrument display (maybe?)
  • Steering wheel button assembly with scroll wheels
  • Brake booster
  • Traction control module for ABS/ESP
  • Wheel speed sensors (4)
  • Parking sensors (12) and wiring
  • Thermal controller module
  • Front wheel arch covers (or modify them)

Labor

  • Replacing the two bumpers with sensors: 6 hours
  • Paint front and back bumpers to match: 3 hours
  • Replacing the brake system: 20 hours
  • Replacing the steering column, stalks, and rack: 25 hours
  • Replacing the wiring harness: 200 hours
  • Replacing the windshield/mirror/headliner: 3 hours
  • Installing the controllers: 2 hours
  • Testing and validating entire car still works: 10 hours

Estimated total labor: 269 hours.

At $175/hour shop rate, $47,075 labor
Parts cost: Likely $20K+
Total cost: $67K+

Now some might argue the wiring harness shouldn’t take 200 hours. Actually, I could be quite conservative on this. It will be necessary to just about completely disassemble and reassemble the entire car, including removal of all seats, carpets, dashboard, frunk, trunk, headliner, and possibly temporary removal of the main battery. If you were do do this for the first time, without instructions (a position I’ve been in many times), I suspect you could double the labor effort, but then your time might not be worth $175/hour!

It might be possible for Tesla to engineer a add-on wiring harness to connect the new parts. I really doubt this is possible, but it would still require a huge amount of work, as wiring runs from the very front to the very rear of the car and into the headliner and dash.

I also worry the 10 hours for testing does not include any time for fixing errors or troubleshooting problems. Unlike the factory with specialized test equipment, it may be far more effort to solve any issues that appear.

My conclusion is a retrofit makes no economic sense, no matter how desirable it might be. You’d be far better off selling the car and purchasing a new one.

2016 Update

While I didn’t think a retrofit could be done, Wk056 proved me wrong!  It is far from a simple project and much of my parts list above were right. I’ve made a changes to the parts list based on his notes in green (adds) and strikethrough (parts not needed).  He was also able to do the work in 50 hours, but that may not include everything such a pre-planning and finding used parts.  He also has access to the new and old car schematics and the internal software, that mere mortals like us do not have. Without that expert software access, all the hardware changes would be worthless.  Also, as he points out, there are some significant warranty and repair concerns, as Tesla will not service or repair any of these changes that were made. In all, quite an impressive accomplishment.  Here is his full writeup and photo journal on the Autopilot Retrofit.

2 thoughts on “Autopilot/Lane Departure Retrofit

  1. Bobell says:

    Effective what vin number starts the hardware for autopilot incorporated, whether chosen as a option or not? Thanks

    • Moderator says:

      Any Model S built on or after 17-Sep-2014 includes AP1 hardware. The VINs for AP1 started around 46,000 and later, but some cars as late as 56,000 didn’t have AP1. The VIN number is not a reliable cut-off.

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