On Monday, American media outlet CNBC reported that Tesla had removed an electronic control unit in the steering system of its Model 3 and Y vehicles made in Shanghai, in order to cope with the ongoing global chip shortage, according to an internal letter. Chinese media outlet ThePaper contacted Tesla’s official customer service representatives, who said that “every vehicle we deliver must meet national regulations.”
The electronic control unit in question converts the signal of steering wheel rotations into wheel rotations. CNBC quoted Tesla employees as saying that after discussion, they didn’t think it was necessary to inform customers of the news, because this component was a redundant backup and didn’t work in the current Level 2 assisted driving system.
However, if Tesla seeks to realize Level 3 autonomous driving and allow drivers to release the steering wheel during driving, it needs a dual electronic control unit system. Thus, these vehicles need to be modified.
Phil Amsrud, Senior Principal Analyst at IHS Markit, said that most automakers will spend 1,000 hours or more testing changes, which may take more than four months. It may also take years for quality or safety issues to become clear after the changes. However, Tesla employees revealed that it took the company less than a few weeks to decide to reduce the electronic control unit.
This is not the first time Tesla has reduced its allocation of resources due to the chip problem.
In May 2021, Tesla removed the front passenger lumbar seat support on Model 3 and Model Y units, without offering any discounts or advance notice. In response, Elon Musk said on Twitter, “Logs showed almost no usage. Not worth cost/mass for everyone when almost never used.”
In 2021, many car companies including Tesla cut off some functions due to the unravelling computer chip shortage. However, most car companies have informed consumers about the reduction, often providing some price concessions to compensate.
For example, Chinese automobile brand Li Auto announced in October 2021 that consumers who were originally scheduled to get their ordered car between October and November could choose a “three-radar version” (one front and two rear angle millimeter wave radars). The company would complete the installation of the other two radars from December to February.
Li Auto said that the models with only three millimeter-wave radars do not currently support automatic parallel connection or the early warning of crossing vehicles ahead, while other ADAS features will work normally. To make up with consumers, Li Auto said they would give these car owners a lifetime warranty and 10,000 benefit points.