Steam-Powered Teslas?

Whenever I board a train, airplane, or boat, I always ask if I can drive. Except for the time when that cruise ship capsized and sank off the French coast, the engineer/pilot/captain has never handed over the keys. Still, it never hurts to ask. But when I get in a car, I almost always get to drive. Which brings us to the question of “driving” a car and the future of mobile entertainment.

I'm not a Tesla fanboy. I don't drive a Tesla. I don't own Tesla stock. And yet, apparently, I have Tesla on the brain. Alert readers will recall that I recently posted two blogs concerning Tesla here and here. And now, I am inflicting a third. Actually, it's easy to understand what is going on. Tesla routinely pushes the technology envelope with products and features that are pretty cool and deserve mention. The latest proposed Tesla innovation is all about gaming. In particular, Mr. Musk has tweeted that future Tesla vehicles will support Steam gaming. This would be a big deal.

As you probably know, Steam is a video game distribution service. With a digital storefront, server hosting, cloud storage, video streaming, digital rights management, automatic updating of games, social networking, an application programming interface, Steam is huge. In fact, it encompasses a library of some 50,000 titles, operating over 28 different languages. It is by far the largest digital distribution platform for PC gaming with millions of monthly users/addicts. Steam is a big deal.

Mr. Musk tweeted that Tesla is planning to support popular video games, as possibly the entirety of Steam, in its future infotainment systems. According to Mr. Musk, the latter would “obviously where we should be long-term.” Newer Teslas feature a 17-inch display with a AMD Navi 23 GPU. Although its specs are not publicly disclosed, it is rumored to have 10 teraflops of computing power which is on par with Sony’s PlayStation5. Why put such a powerful game computer in a car unless you plan to offer powerful gaming? The time frame? Certainly more than a year away, but no one knows, and Mr. Musk is occasionally a tad optimistic in his predictions of future offerings.

Taking a step back, we might reasonably ask, why would a car's dashboard support high-powered gaming? Is that even safe? The answer is that automobiles are undergoing a radical transformation. At least by appearance, EV vehicles are not too dissimilar from ICE vehicles. But although both types will get you from Point A to B, they are actually quite different. In particular, although autonomous driving can be implemented in ICEs, that feature will really take hold as EVs proliferate.

Whenever you board a train, airplane, or boat, you expect to be entertained. I mean, if you're not driving, it can be pretty boring otherwise. And when cars drive themselves, both passengers and “drivers” will have lots of time on their hands. Thus they will want to be entertained. Thus the quality of the gaming, as well as that of audio/video playback, will be a tremendously important sales feature. In fact, this is the same argument that is encouraging Sony to enter the EV market, believing that the company is well positioned to rethink mobile entertainment.

In any case, a Tesla with a PlayStation-type system in the dashboard would be formidably entertaining. At that point, not only would autonomous driving be desirable, for safety's sake, it would be essential.