The Industry

Elon Musk Is Bringing Atari Games to Tesla Cars

The Tesla Model X computer screen mounted on the dashboard is introduced at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The Tesla Model X computer screen mounted on the dashboard is introduced at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Stan Honda/Getty Images

Elon Musk has been a little unpredictable lately, from his defensiveness about his (fruitless) plans to rescue the boys trapped in a Thai cave to his remarks about Tesla analysts’ “boring, bonehead questions.” On Wednesday, he did something else unexpected: He apologized to investors on Tesla’s earnings call. And he dropped another surprise, one that will presumably endear him to his fans and to the nostalgic: He plans to add Atari games to Tesla consoles.

The enthusiasm appears to be mutual. “Exciting stuff happening at Atari!” the video game company tweeted in response.

Atari, a decades-old company perhaps best known for its 2600 video game console, owns or manages more than 200 games and franchises, according to its website. Its arcade games like Missile Command, popular in the 1980s, had players deploying missiles and nukes to defend cities. (The game has since been adapted for smartphones.)

So will drivers soon be firing virtual missiles from their Tesla consoles? Possibly. Musk signaled in a follow-up tweet that he hopes to include Missile Command, Tempest, and Pole Position “in this release,” with Pole Position linked to the “actual car steering wheel”—while the car is stationary, he emphasized. Musk also invited video game developers to apply to Tesla “to make super fun games that integrate the center touch screen, phone & car irl.” It’s unclear what that integration will look like, exactly.

Games aren’t the only change on the horizon with Tesla’s 9.0 software update. The update will apparently enable “full self-driving features” in eligible vehicles. Currently, the Autopilot mode allows Tesla cars to auto-steer, stay in a lane, brake and accelerate as long as the driver has hands on the wheel.

The Tesla console is already pretty entertaining. Drivers can spice up their daily commutes by altering the console display, which shows their cars navigating in real-time, by punching in special access codes, holding down the Tesla logo, or pressing certain buttons in rapid succession. The on-screen Tesla can transform into Santa’s sleigh, James Bond’s submarine, or a Mars rover. And the gray pavement can become a dazzling Mario Kart–style rainbow road.

It’s not the first time that a car manufacturer has explored adding built-in video games to its cars, as Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky points out. But adding those games to a console meant for the driver, rather than the back of a seat, ups the ante considerably.

“Pokémon Go for Tesla??” a Twitter user asked on Wednesday.

“Something like that,” Musk tweeted in response, “but more of an adults in cars anime vibe.”