The Model 3 infotainment system provides the basis for Tesla’s ventilator, hastily designed to combat device shortages around the world.
Ventilators are one of the most important medical devices in the battle against the coronavirus, helping keep patients with critical COVID-19 infections alive. But as the coronavirus pandemic has spread, hospitals in the worst-hit nations have found the devices in short supply. Fortunately, a handful of manufacturers have been trying to plug the shortfall including Tesla, the electric vehicle giant led by Elon Musk, which is using its New York gigafactory to help produce ventilators.
On April 5, Tesla engineering provided an update on the company’s own ventilator, which is “heavily based on Tesla car parts,” according to engineering director Joseph Mardall. A four-minute-long video was posted to YouTube revealing a prototype ventilator powered by many of the same components used in the Tesla Model 3.
Earlier Sunday, an aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tesla was manufacturing parts of the ventilator, not an entire machine. But it seems Tesla is moving forward on a full-scale ventilator. Musk has previously said the company would work on ventilators, though he thinks they “probably won’t be needed.”
Hospital grade components and parts originally designed and built for Tesla’s fleet of electric vehicles work in concert to push a mixture of oxygen and air through the device. Ventilators are typically used in critical cases of COVID-19, where the lungs are filled with fluid and inflammatory cells preventing adequate oxygen exchange.
The packaged prototype of the machine shown off in the Tesla Engineering video is driven primarily by the Model 3 infotainment system. The Tesla ventilator uses the center display touchscreen as a user interface for monitoring and the vehicle’s infotainment motherboard as the chief computing system, driving valves controlling the flow of gases into the ventilator.
Tesla is just one of a a handful of companies designing new, cutting-edge ventilator systems. The likes of tech giants Dyson, General Motors, MIT and a British consortium led by Airbus have all announced projects aimed at plugging the shortfall of ventilators encountered across the world. However, new systems will need to jump over some regulatory hurdles before they are cleared to be used in a medical setting.
It’s unclear how far away Tesla’s ventilators may be from production but Lars Moravy, vice president of vehicle engineering at Tesla, suggests it’s still early days.
“There’s still a lot of work to do but we’re giving it our best effort to make sure we can help some people out there,” he notes.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.