Firmware for Model S

Firmware for Model S

Firmware for Model S
I got an idea and I hope somebody from Tesla reads this.

5 Reasons why Model S needs to partner with Google or Microsoft for Model S Firmware:
1. Tesla is a car manufacturing company, not a software company.
2. Google, Microsoft or Apple all are software companies who developed a stable, well tested and high performing operating system for low powered devices with solid state storage (aka cell phones).
3. Google’s Android OS is open source so Tesla can customize it to incorporate vehicle features.
4. Google’s Android 2.2 OS already has “Car Home” feature which functions in a car mode with large icons, navigation, voice recognition, music, etc.
5. Partnering with a leading software maker will ensure Tesla software be on the leading edge with the latest mobile trends.
1 reason why Tesla should not develop its own firmware:
Why spend lots of resources to build firmware from scratch, when you can partner with a leading software maker and build on top of existing fully functional features?

Brian H | November 3, 2010

Software is never fully functional. And it's death to be in the position of saying to your provider: "PLEEEZE fix it!"

Mike_ModelS_P457 | November 3, 2010

The reality is the software, no matter who created it, will have bugs and will require updates. Almost as important as ensuring stability and a simple firmware update process is a graceful fail. Should the software barf out while at highway speeds you need to be able to safely get to the shoulder. I less concerned about the platform than I am about the fail procedure and testing modality. That said, I sure Tesla will take this seriously. Right now the naysayers are using so-called range anxiety, but they'll get to the software as a pain point. Desperation to maintain the carbon energy monopoly is going to bring out the ugliness.

BYT | November 3, 2010

Unlike a cell phone or computer that has to adapt to an ever changing environment, the Keep It Simple Stupid method of programming for a car makes more sense. You would be less likely to run into major Firmware issues down the road (no pun intended). Build the software, test it with really good QA and keep the fixes and changes once it's completed to a minimum to stay stable and successful. Open Source doesn't have much of a place in car dashboard technology IMHO.

Mark Petersen | November 7, 2010

hmm software for witch part of the car are you thinking about

for motor/battery/break/power-steering controle or for the entertainment system (17" touch display)
well I would not want windows mobil to controle the cores system
but android for the entertainment system sound as a nice idear
especially as some of the google founders have invested in Tesla

Engineer… An electrical engineer, a chemical engineer, and a software engineer are riding in a car when the car stalls by the side of the road. The electrical engineer says “Let’s strip down the wiring and try to trace where the fault might have occurred.” The chemical engineer says ” Maybe the fuel has become emulsified and is causing a blockage somewhere in the system.” The software engineer says ” Why don’t we close all the windows , get out , get back in , open the windows , then try it again.”

nlukin | November 11, 2010

Ha! Nice Mark - just reboot the car!
Android just seams like a logical choice for the 17 inch display. It already has all the features built out.

brookbot | March 22, 2011

Another vote for Android as entertainment system OS here.

Although I would be fine just with connectivity to my cell phone. Ie. streaming audio/video over Bluetooth. Better would be some remoting to access/control my cell phone from the touch screen.

Fact is that software and hardware technology changes rapidly and what ever entertainment system sw/hw is provided it will be obsolete in about 6months. So Tesla (as well as other automakers) need to realy think in terms of a way for customer to easily replace/upgrade that system - just like buying a new cell phone or laptop.

I see no need to try to build in everything my cell phone already has like GB of storage for MP3's, etc. as that's just another copy of my data I'd have to manage, or another wireless service I'd have to pay for. I would rather just have my cell phone data and apps available over the touch screen. For example, I'd rather use Google maps then some other vendors solution. In 3 years they will have evolved and I'd still be able to use them in my car. Way better then getting stuck w/obsolete GPS software and an expensive upgrade options that are inferior anyway.

Some phone holder w/inductive charging would be cool since that's the one connection that's really going to be needed.

Just please don't use any Windows SW. I don't want to have to reboot my car every day...

And we all know that firmware required for normal car operations is exactly that - Firmware.

jfeister | March 22, 2011

I've been worried about this little dream of Elon's to have developers make apps for cars, at least in the short run. You're talking about a market of maybe 30,000 cars in the first few years. Tesla isn't pumping out millions of units like Apple. So where's the incentive for the developer? Even if you get a good chunk of the market share that means only a few thousand units sold...for a $5 app? Not exactly big bucks. I'm guessing it'll be mostly Tesla made apps in the short run. If the approach gains traction you could see developers take more interest, but not until there is a sizable market for them.

As far as OS, Android seems like the obvious choice. Apple would never put their software in something they didn't build, and Microsoft is ... um ... closed source? Is that a term? Plus they have such a small slice of the mobile market. Besides, Tesla and Google seem like they'd make good butt buddies.

KyMD | March 22, 2011

I think the best way to make the entertainment system work is to utilize the smartphones that people already have. We have phones that connect to the Internet, have GPS, play music and video, take pictures, etc. Why not just use those phones as your processors and just wifi the display to larger infotainment screen. It simplifies the computer processing, the user gets a display they are used to and interact with it the same way they already interact with their phones.

Douglas3 | March 22, 2011

jfeister, I suspect that the early apps will be written by enthusiasts, people who happen to have the necessary skills and do it for fun. Some might just give them away. Others might charge but it will be "fun money" on the side, not a way to make a living.

dashrb | March 23, 2011

There's no question I would write my own app.

And, I vote for Google Earth over Google Maps. 3D, man!

Muskoka | March 23, 2011

I'd also write an app for the Model S - or post a bounty for it on FossFactory (maybe someone with more time available could write it for us - I'd bet that it wouldn't take too many owners with similar interests to create a nice bounty).

I'm thinking of two apps in fact:

App #1: This would report vehicle speed/location heuristics to me periodically (at any interval I select) via the cellular data network so that if I let my sons drive it with their friends, I could get a feel for how they were taking care... or if one of his friends was at the wheel. Likewise, if it exceeded, say, 65 mph (110 km/h), I could shut it down and make him walk home... I hope that Tesla gives API access to vehicle speed and acceleration/braking information - and the ability to limit such max speeds/acceleration and/or shut down the vehicle gradually and/or display a warning that Dad was receiving a report! My sons might not be happy with such an application, but they can always choose to walk ;)

App #2: This would also run in background, and hook to a webcam or similar camera which I would mount facing forward (unless the Tesla includes one). Continuously recording, in the event of a collision, it would save the last few minutes of video and immediately transmit wirelessly. To work properly, Tesla would have to give API access so that if airbags are deployed, my app could be notified so that the video could be stored/transmitted.

Note that I am not proposing to write critical power-train/braking/etc. applications... simply wish to use notifications and/or data from such core applications to trigger events or provide information for my applications to process. The ability to also shut down or limit vehicle speed/acceleration would also be very useful - not just for my application suggestions, but for other security and control systems.

Bottom line - I think that the ability to design custom apps for the Model S is a great idea!

msiano17 | March 23, 2011

To be honest, the one thing that I would really enjoy seeing in the apps would be one that will constantly update for local charging stations, cost to charge, rate of charge, and updates of new locations opening up.

I really don't expect to use a charging station with my regular commute, but in the future I may and I do not want to have to think of where a station is at like how I do not need to for a gas station.

I would like to be able to sync up my smartphone apps with the info screen ... i.e. sync my contacts and calendar and have any alarms or reminders go off in my car while I am driving so I don't forget something. Classic scenario, driving home from work forgetting it is the anniversary, smartphone tells car and reminder goes off, I can now pick up gift on my way home.

michiganmodels | March 24, 2011

If you have not viewed this, it's germane to this thread and I believe you will find it interesting. It's from May 2009:

Shogun | March 28, 2011

Google, Microsoft, and Apple all have precious little experience writing true real time firmware used to control life or death motorized systems. Remember, the FIRMWARE running the Tesla will be controlling things like stability control (e.g. power and brakes either regen or regular), traction control, etc.

If I ever heard that Microsoft was contributing ANYTHING to Tesla that ran on a critical system I would immediately forget any dreams I may have had regarding purchasing one of them.

Charging stations, just like all "food/gas/etc" will be able to be found using your GPS, the GPS will just need a software upgrade for the new categories.

Tesla is smart - they will do the right thing. I really do think it's funny how everyone on these boards think they have the latest hot/great idea for Tesla as if they haven't heard of it or thought of it themselves.

Brian H | March 28, 2011

Yeah, the Peter Principle hasn't had time to do its nefarious work yet, filling supervisory and management posts with people who have all "reached their level of incompetence". But give it 10 or 20 yrs. ...

Volker.Berlin | March 29, 2011

Shogun, when they say firmware, they actually mean the parts of the software visible to the user. If I cannot see it, it is not there... ;-) "Firmware" just sounds so much more involved than "software" or "user interface". Take it with a grain of salt and continue this thread talking about the application layer and those "apps". Tesla will get the actual firmware right, and no one will ever notice (I hope).

Brian H | March 30, 2011

Volker, here's a definition that matches what I've always understood:
"(computing) coded instructions that are stored permanently in read-only memory"

Volker.Berlin | March 31, 2011

Brian, right. You wouldn't want to store your GPS software in read-only memory, would you? If you compare it to the PC, the "Firmware" is the BIOS, not the Windows or Linux or OS X. It's a piece of software that most users are unaware of. But actually, you are dragging me into precisely the kind of hair splitting I intended to avoid with my previous post. Whatever you want to call it, when somebody talks about Google and Microsoft and GPS and stuff, it is sufficiently clear to me what part of the system is meant: Not the firmware used to control life or death [of] motorized systems (Shogun).

Douglas3 | March 31, 2011

Volker, modern "read-only memory" is actually Flash memory, which can via special procedure be erased and rewritten. Your standalone GPS unit DOES contain Flash memory, and that's why you can upgrade the maps.

Volker.Berlin | March 31, 2011

Douglas3, yes I know. In fact, also your PC's BIOS can be updated. I did not want to make things even more complicated, because in that case Brian's definition would become irrelevant, and he would then start defending it, etc. Let's just get back to the topic now... i.e., that part of the software, that is most interesting to the majority of users. May I -- again -- suggest to call that the "application layer" or just "apps"? :-)

Brian H | April 1, 2011

Don't be so condescending, Volker. I've dealt with Flash and hard-coded and RAM memories since the '80s. Have you heard of Ovonics? How about spintronics? Non-volatile memory is a better term for what we're talking about here.

Volker.Berlin | April 1, 2011

Don't be so condescending, Volker

Didn't mean to. I am just desperately trying to get back on topic.

Please scroll back a few posts. Shogun was criticizing that he didn't want Microsoft or Google to contribute to the car's "firmware" because he suggested that they do not have any track record in doing that by the definition of "firmware" that Shogun seems to imply.

All I was contributing to this thread was noticing that Shogun was using another definition of "firmware" than the originator of the thread and all other contributors so far. I was conceding to Shogun that his definition of the term is technically more precise, yet does not help the topic of this thread b/c obviously everybody else was talking about something different. That's all, and notably Shogun has not objected.

Please note that I deliberately avoided any attempt of a formal definition of the term "firmware". I think it is totally sufficient to just read what people have to say about Google and Microsoft and those applications the user may be exposed to in a car. It was not the intention of the originator of the thread to start a discussion about what technically is or is not "firmware". nlukin, correct me if I'm wrong.

Friends again? ;-)

Brian H | April 1, 2011



Fighting is much more fun!

carloseduardoab | April 1, 2011

I am late to this conversation. I would like to know if Tesla is going to use or support any of the OSs in the market (IOS,Android,windows,WebOS).

Once that's decided, I am sure the developer community would line up to create Apps for the system. Most car manufactures are already working on integrating cloud Applications, like Pandora, google maps, iHeartRadio, etc...

Volker.Berlin | April 1, 2011

AFAIK there is no official statement yet. Personally I was expecting Android (or ChromeOS, which probably is going to merge with Android, anyway), because Google has a significant financial stake in Tesla. But other than that, nothing seems to hint in that direction. To the contrary. Due to the hardware they seem to be using rumor has it that they are going for something based on RIM's PlayBook OS. If anybody has any more authoritative information, I'd be very interested to hear about it.

gravey | April 4, 2011


MS is actually putting out some pretty amazing car products for ford. ford is receiving great reviews for the technology that surpasses that of much more expensive brands. the new edge has a great interface. i would say that MS is the most advanced. i am not sure if they have a binding agreement with ford.


msiano17 | April 4, 2011

I really hope they have a system that is widely compatible and does not specify its targets to one area of the market. I don't to have to switch OS platforms just because the system runs on products that are compatible Apple or Android only.

Land of Texas | May 10, 2015

So when is the next update for the firmware for Model S?