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When Nikkei Business Publications tore down the Tesla Model 3, they expected to find cutting edge technology and components. This most affordable of the all-electric vehicles offered more than just genius mechanics.

Nikkei Business Publications learned that Tesla is farther ahead of most of the automaker technology of today, including the stealthy and smart Toyota and VW engineering teams. Some suggest peering into the inner workings of a Model 3 is like staring into the future. We wanted to dig in to find out just how far ahead of the pack Tesla really is.

Toyota vs. Volkswagen vs. Tesla in numbers

Elon Musk’s ‘little company that could’ is gaining cultural popularity and consumer preference ground. Tesla is positioning itself to be an automotive industry disruptor, and consumers are hungry for more.

Last year, Tesla sold over 365,000 cars. However, in comparison with Toyota and Volkswagen, which each sell 10 million vehicles annually, those Tesla year-end totals are relatively small. However, Tesla is far beyond the others when it comes to tech and innovation. In fact, during this Model 3 teardown, engineers were in awe.

An electronically advanced edge on everyone

One of the most stand-out features of the Model 3 is the central control unit, designed to be a full self-driving computer. It’s called the Hardware 3 and comes complete with two custom-developed AI chips, made entirely by Tesla.

This computer is used today as the primary base for the various models’ infotainment systems. It holds more substantial downloads, offers more power to the platform, and is entirely upgradeable over-the-air. It’s a tiny piece of tech that disrupts the current auto industry supply chain relationship.

The supply chain disruption

Traditional automakers, like Toyota and VW, have relied on various suppliers to build electronic accessories, not entire EV platforms like Tesla. Working through complicated networks of contractors makes it harder to control the technology and enhancement side, from an engineering perspective. Today’s manufacturers have spent years building their supply chains, and in a way, might be held back technologically because of it.

Tesla’s cars today are actually built for tomorrow

The technology Tesla is using in its electric cars is honed and capable of even more futuristic endeavors. The computer is designed to perform for the EVs today, but have the capability of getting an over-the-air upgrade to accommodate an autonomous vehicle world.

This kind of network and electronic platform, with that tiny computer, is far ahead of its time. One completely shocked Japanese engineer (from a major automaker) studied the tech carefully and said, “We cannot do it.”

So how far ahead of Toyota and VW is Tesla’s tech?

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As @jettrip says, “just frunking around”

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Based on the current uses for the Tesla tech, along with its more futuristic capabilities in supporting both EV/AV, it’s clear Tesla is ahead of even the brightest engineering teams at VW or Toyota. Some suggest automakers might face challenges when transitioning to more EV/AV science, including financial and supply chain hurdles.

Insiders predict this type of technology should become standard for designers around 2025. Meaning, as of right now, Tesla’s tech is about six years ahead of its competitors.

Anything you can do, Tesla can do better

While the big automakers lumber around like giants and take eons to make technological upgrades, a more streamlined and smaller Tesla is able to make investments, designs, and decisions quickly. When traditional automakers can’t innovate efficiently because of cumbersome supply chain obligations, Tesla will be creating and building new tech.

When the cars of the future require enhanced science, Tesla can send over-the-air updates to its existing system for complete support. The legacy automakers will have to start from scratch and build their own components.

Tesla isn’t just a scrappy carmaker building state of the art electric cars. It’s a completely nimble and flexible designer of technology for tomorrow, as well. Toyota, VW, and others should take a page out of Tesla’s big picture thinking and development strategy.