Exclusive: Tesla's Model 3, Project Highland Exposed: What’s Changing

By Kevin Armstrong
Tesla's Model 3 is going to go through some of its biggest changes this year
Tesla's Model 3 is going to go through some of its biggest changes this year

Tesla has been working on a revamp of one of its most popular vehicles, the Model 3. The project is codenamed Project Highland and the vehicle will see the most profound changes since it launched in 2017.

Despite Tesla keeping the car under wraps for months, we now have early information on the major changes coming to the best-selling electric vehicle of all time. Thanks to a trusted insider, we can confirm and provide more information about Tesla's plans for the car. Inside and out, the Highland will change.

Redesigned Headlights

Caped Model 3s have been spotted with the front bumper, rear end and dash covered. However, more recently the incognito Model 3 also had its headlights covered. The headlight openings that were clear before were now covered in what appeared to be duct tape. Turns out there is a good reason for this. The Model 3 revamp will include redesigned headlights. The new headlights will be a different shape than they are today. Tesla has been providing some models with matrix headlights, but they have yet to be enabled through software yet. Tesla will continue to offer matrix headlights through this redesign, although it's not clear whether they'll be enabled at launch either.

The revamped Model 3 is known internally as Project Highland
The revamped Model 3 is known internally as Project Highland
The Kilowatts/Twitter

Bumper Camera

A new shape of headlights also means a new front bumper. There has been a lot of speculation that the front of the car is changing after recent images show a smoother front end. Tesla is always looking for more aerodynamics to improve the drag coefficient. However, there's another good reason for redesigning a new front bumper. The front bumper will now house a single camera in the center area of the lower-vent area of the bumper.

The location of the new camera will be very similar to the one shown off on the Cybertruck at Tesla's Investor Day.

The Cybertruck will have a camera in the center of the front bumper
The Cybertruck will have a camera in the center of the front bumper

Since the company removed USS, people have been wondering how the car will detect objects in what's considered a camera blind spot directly in front of the vehicle. Now we know.

Rear Bumper

The rear bumper of the vehicle is also being redesigned, although it's not clear why. We don't expect the rear camera to change position and there won't be additional cameras in the rear of the vehicle. The new rear bumper could just be to 'refresh' the car or may have cost-saving measures.


Updated mirrors are also joining the party. We're told that they will receive a very minor 'refresh' and will look very similar to the way they do today. It's not clear whether Tesla is changing them to match other areas of the vehicle better or to streamline manufacturing, but we've been told to expect a minor change.

Additional Cameras

Tesla recently launched hardware 4.0 on Model S and Model X cars, although many were surprised to learn that the new vehicles feature the same number of cameras as HW 3 vehicles, when hardware 4 allows for more cameras. This is where Project Highland comes in.

We can now say that more cameras will indeed be used in Project Highland. There will be three new cameras in all, one in the center of the front bumper as we discussed earlier, and two more on the sides of the vehicle.

The fender camera housing will now contain two cameras each. One will face backward as it does now, while the other will point in the other direction. It's not clear how the new camera will be oriented, but we speculate that they will be aimed off to the side to give the car a better view at certain intersections.

Some road junctions have objects such as buildings or bushes that can make it difficult for the vehicle to see with its B-pillar cameras. This often causes the vehicle to creep forward in order to gain enough visibility to proceed. Creeping too far forward sometimes causes the vehicle to be in a poor situation, where it has entered the path of other vehicles. These new cameras are likely aimed at solving this problem.

As previously reported, the repeater camera housing on the front fenders appears to be changing. It now appears to include a line that goes further back than the original. This could be part of the new design.

Project Highland will ship with Tesla's latest supercomputer, Hardware 4. The cameras themselves are expected to be the same cameras featured on HW4 Model S and Model X vehicles. They're estimated to be 5-megapixel cameras with an anti-glare coating. These cameras are significantly more advanced than the current 1.2-megapixel cameras in current HW 3 vehicles.

With the new front bumper cameras and the two additional side cameras, Tesla may now have everything it needs in order to provide a real birds-eye view that is often seen in many vehicles.


In order to cut costs, Tesla is removing the vehicle's temperature sensor that is used to detect the temperature outside of the vehicle. Instead of using a temperature sensor, the vehicle will determine the exterior temperature based on its GPS location and weather data. This could lead to more accurate temperatures being displayed, as wind or other environmental factors can sometimes cause inaccuracies. However, owners will lose the ability to view the temperature in their immediate location, such as their garage.

Tesla is also making improvements to its GPS module which is expected to provide a more accurate location. In August 2022, Tesla applied for a patent on a multi-band Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) antenna. Various types of satellites and networks can be used to identify an object's location. GPS is just one of those networks. This new system allows Tesla to use other networks, besides GPS, in order to identify the vehicle's location. This could lead to faster location detection or higher precision.


Inside the vehicle, there will be some changes as well. However, don't expect a major refresh as we saw with the 2021 Model S, but it will still be noticeable. The wood trim is being removed and replaced with a fabric finish, possibly Alcantara fabric that Tesla already uses in the Model S and X.

The vehicle's dash will also receive a facelift, but we weren't given any details on what's changing with it. Again, this could be a way to simplify the manufacturing process instead of offering something new and improved.

There may be other interior changes, but these are expected to be the two bigger differences. We've been told that this refresh will be 'minor' and focuses on cost-cutting, however, it appears that Tesla is taking the time to upgrade the vehicle to its newest hardware and introduce new cameras, which will certainly be a highlight of the vehicle.

The Model Y project, codenamed Juniper is already underway as well, although it's expected to arrive after the Model 3 revamp. We expect the Model Y to undergo many of the same changes that we've outlined here.

Release Date

Overall, the Model 3 Highland's updates show that Tesla is always looking for ways to improve its vehicles and stay ahead of the competition. As is the nature of these things, some items could be subject to change. With these changes, the Model 3 will continue its success as one of the most popular electric vehicles on the market. Production for the vehicle is expected to start in the third quarter.

Tesla's Dojo Project Faces Leadership Shakeup

By Kevin Armstrong
Dojo Leadership Shake up
Dojo Leadership Shake up

Ganesh Venkataramanan, Tesla’s project lead for its ambitious Dojo supercomputer project for the past five years, has left the company. Bloomberg reported this development, stating that the news was confirmed by sources familiar with the matter. Peter Bannon, a former executive at Apple Inc. and a director at Tesla for the last seven years, has now taken the helm of the project.

Venkataramanan's departure from Tesla last month is now stirring conversations about the potential impacts on Tesla's future initiatives. His contributions to the Dojo project have been pivotal, especially in designing the custom D1 chip that powers the supercomputer. Venkataramanan, with his extensive experience, including a significant tenure at Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), was a crucial asset in setting up Tesla’s AI hardware and silicon teams in 2016.

Dojo: A Cornerstone for Tesla’s Self-Driving Aspirations

The Dojo supercomputer is a critical element of Tesla's strategy to enhance its self-driving capabilities. Designed to train machine learning models integral to Tesla's autonomous systems, Dojo processes vast amounts of data captured by Tesla vehicles. This rapid data processing is essential for improving the company’s algorithms, with analysts suggesting that Dojo could be a significant competitive advantage for Tesla. In a recent estimation by Morgan Stanley, the project could potentially add $500 billion to Tesla’s value.

Elon Musk has been vocal about the company's commitment to the Dojo project, planning an investment exceeding $1 billion by the end of 2024. The project's importance was underscored in Tesla's decision to shift from relying on Nvidia Corp.’s supercomputers to developing Dojo, poised to rival systems from Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. and IBM.

Looking Ahead: Impact and Future Prospects

The recent leadership changes raise questions about the future direction of the Dojo project. Venkataramanan's exit, coupled with the departure of another critical artificial intelligence player from Tesla last year, Andrej Karpathy, signals a transition period for the company’s AI and self-driving teams.

However, Tesla's robust talent pool, blending experienced and emerging professionals, offers a silver lining. Bannon's promotion to lead the Dojo project is seen as a strategic move, leveraging his experience and insights gained from his tenure at Apple. Moreover, the recent installation of Dojo hardware in Palo Alto, California, marks a step forward in centralizing and enhancing the project’s capabilities.

Tesla’s ambitions for Dojo extend to making it one of the world’s top supercomputers. The company envisions reaching a computational capability of 100 exaflops* by October 2024, a testament to its commitment to advancing artificial intelligence and self-driving technology.

* Confused about "exaflops?" "Flops" stands for Floating Point Operations Per Second. It's a way to measure how fast a computer can process data. "Exa" means a billion billion, or 1, followed by 18 zeros (1,000,000,000,000,000,000). So, when we say a computer can perform 100 exaflops, it can do 100 billion billion calculations per second. That's incredibly fast!

New Parking Visualizations and Custom Locking Sounds Also Coming in Tesla's Holiday Update

By Kevin Armstrong
Tesla is adding a new 'High Fidelity Park Assist' feature in this year's Holiday Update
Tesla is adding a new 'High Fidelity Park Assist' feature in this year's Holiday Update

Following initial reactions to Tesla's 2023 Holiday Update, Elon Musk acknowledged the need for improvement, stating, "We need to step up our game." His post on X was followed by Tesla shedding more light on the Holiday Update than what was in the initial leak.

Call me old, but I remember a time when you bought a car, and that was it; the dealer and manufacturer didn’t give you anything else. So is the Tesla community acting a little bit spoiled here? Absolutely. But it also shows how high Tesla has set the bar with its previous Holiday Updates.

Initial Release and Feedback

The initial release of the 2023 Holiday Update, version 2023.44.25, received mixed reactions from the Tesla community, with some owners expressing disappointment over the lack of groundbreaking new features. But the newly announced features may serve as better stocking stuffers.

The initial rollout included something owners have been asking for, the blind spot monitor. The camera that turns on when you change lanes will now have a red color added if there is something in your blind spot. It’s not clear whether it will be accompanied by a tone.

Here are other features in the leaked update that are being tested by employees:

Navigation and Safety Features: Including symbols for speed cameras, stop signs, and traffic lights in navigation, and the automatic 911 call feature in case of an accident.

Trip Planning via Tesla Mobile App: Allowing for more detailed trip planning, including multiple stops and charging points.

Apple Podcasts Integration: Allowing users to sync with Apple devices for a seamless podcast experience, directly addressing the demand for a richer in-car entertainment system.

New Games and Enhancements: The update brought updates to Tesla Arcade, with Beach Buggy Racing and Polytopia Diplomacy updates, as well as the Vampire Survivors Chilling update.

Light Show Improvements: There’s a new light show that’s included with your vehicle. You’ll also be able to upload several light shows on a single USB drive and pick one from the vehicle, instead of having to use multiple USB drives, one for each light show.

More Live Sentry Mode Cameras: You will now be able to view the B-pillar cameras directly from the Tesla app. This brings the number of viewable cameras in the app up to seven. The only ones still missing are the alternative front-facing cameras that are telephoto and wide-angle, which wouldn’t bring much additional value. Although the B-pillars are viewable in the app with this update, they will still not be used to record during Dashcam or Sentry Mode events.

High-Fidelity Park Assist

Tesla's High Fidelity Park Assist
Tesla's new parking assist feature will dynamically recreate scenes in real-time

In response to the feedback and Musk's statement, Tesla unveiled additional features in its updated holiday update, including an improved park assist with enhanced visualizations.

This feature provides a 3D reconstruction of the vehicle's surroundings while parking, akin to a 360-degree camera system found in other high-end vehicles. The system is clearly leveraging improvements to Tesla Vision to create the surrounding environment, such as cars, pillars and walls.

This feature also appears to change the color of objects depending on how close they are to your vehicle. In the image we can see the pillars are orange, but if we look closer, the object behind the vehicle is also orange near the bottom. The sides of the vehicles next to the Tesla also have a slight hint of orange, indicating their proximity.

However, it looks like this feature may be even better than it initially looks. The vehicles in the image aren’t just predefined 3D models that Tesla created, like the ones used in Autopilot visualizations. These models appear to be dynamically created using vision, so that no two cars would look alike, much more similar to what LiDar is able to achieve. The visualization provides a true representation of the environment around the vehicle. You can see that each vehicle is made up from layers and have blurred edges toward the rear, where the camera would have a hard time seeing.

These 3D models could be a sneak peek at the future of FSD visualizations.

High-Fidelity Park Assist Requirements

A big question on everyone’s mind is who will receive this new park assist feature. Tesla didn’t address this in their post on X besides providing a disclaimer that the features in the holiday release are subject to model and region availability. Tesla often likes to test features in select markets before making them available everywhere. It’s hard to say whether that will be the case here. There likely aren’t any legal ramifications around providing visualizations, so that’s a good sign that this feature will be available in most regions, either in the holiday update, or soon afterward.

However, there are still questions around which models or hardware will be required. From the image shared, we can see it’s offered on a Model Y, removing any speculation of it possibly requiring the HD radar in the new Model S/X. We also don’t think it will require FSD hardware 4.0, so the remaining questions are whether it requires MCU 3, or the FSD package.

Given that Tesla is calling this Park Assist, it doesn’t appear to be linked to Auto Park, which is a FSD package feature. When Tesla rolled out visual and audio alerts for vehicles without ultrasonic sensors, it called the feature Park Assist, and that was available to all owners.

Whether this improved Park Assist feature requires a vehicle with MCU 3 will depend on the level of processing power required. It’ll certainly require more than the current visualizations given that its building the scene in real-time, so we’re hopeful that it’ll work on MCU 2 vehicles too, but we just don’t have enough information right now to make the call.

Custom Lock Sounds

Soon you'll be able to choose a custom locking sound for your car
Soon you'll be able to choose a custom locking sound for your car
Not a Tesla App

Tesla also announced a fun and whimsical feature that allows owners to customize the lock sound of their Tesla. No longer will you need to listen to the car’s horn when it locks as you walk away. Now you’ll be able to customize the lock sound of the vehicle. Tesla is including several options, including sounds like a screaming goat, a jingle, a rubber ducky, a quack sound, an old school horn and applause. However, you’ll also be able to upload your own file to create a truly unique experience.

You can pick anything, from a bird’s tweet to a favorite video game sound. You’ll only be limited by the maximum upload file size, which according to a Tesla engineer, is a 1MB file in WAV format, which is roughly about 40 seconds at good quality.

This feature is possible due to the vehicle’s external pedestrian warning speaker. So if you have Tesla’s Boombox feature or your vehicle makes a sound when traveling under 20 MPH, then you should receive this fun enhancement.

Rear Seat Audio and Gaming

You'll now be able to play games on Tesla's rear screens
You'll now be able to play games on Tesla's rear screens

Enhancing the Tesla Arcade experience, passengers in the rear seats can now play games on the rear touchscreen. This feature, especially when paired with Tesla Arcade’s compatibility with PS4, PS5, Xbox Controllers, and rear-screen Bluetooth Headsets, is a welcome addition for families and long trips.

Much like the new Model 3, which received rear audio over Bluetooth support in the 2023.38 update, the new Model S and Model X will also receive this ability in the holiday update.

New Game - Castle Doombad

Tesla announced one other feature in the 2023 holiday update that hadn’t been previously leaked, and that’s a new game called Castle Doombad. Castle Doombad is a single player tower defense, puzzle-like game that’s currently available on iOS and Android, but has an upcoming release on PC and the Nintendo Switch. This game is expected to require MCU 3.

Release Timeline

The rollout of the 2023 Holiday Update is expected to follow a similar timeline to last year. Tesla announced that the update will roll out starting next week. However, it’s not clear whether this will also include FSD Beta testers that are on a 2023.27 update.

Looking back at the 2022 Holiday Update, it started on December 13 and took about a week to get to the entire fleet.

Speculation on Future Features

Like a spoiled child on Christmas morning, Tesla owners still ask, “Is that it?” Well… possibly, but there may be more to look forward to early next year as Tesla builds off of the new High-Fidelity Park Assist feature.

Advanced Smart Summon: Upgrading the Smart Summon feature to be more intuitive and efficient, especially in complex parking scenarios.

Reverse Summon / Park Seek: What happened to Tesla dropping its passengers and driver off at the location and then finding a parking spot on its own?

Enhanced FSD Visualizations: Expanding the Full Self-Driving visualizations to more regions or models or completely recreating the FSD visualizations using the same neural networks Tesla is using for the High-Fidelity Park Assist feature.

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Although we share official Tesla release notes, we are not affiliated with Tesla Motors. We are Tesla fans and supporters.

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