Tesla's vehicles are about to get a whole lot smarter.
Tesla needs strong A.I. to power its most ambitious future features. Tesla has gradually improved its full self-driving beta software, with ambitions to drive from A to B without any human interventions. It will need software capable of making human-like driving decisions, hence the need for A.I.
All the company’s cars since October 2016 ship with a suite of sensors designed to eventually support the feature — all it needs, Tesla claims, is a computer and software update.
It comes at a difficult time for Tesla. Less than a week ago, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into the company’s Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system. The feature promises to handle select driving areas with human oversight, and it’s meant to act as a stepping stone to the more ambitious point-to-point autonomous driving feature. The NHTSA will investigate 11 crashes where Autopilot was enabled.
Amid investigations and software boosts, Tesla will outline its A.I. capabilities. Here’s what to know.
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Tesla A.I. Day: what is it?
In June, Musk first outlined the idea for an A.I. day:
“Looking at holding Tesla AI Day in about a month or so. Will go over progress with Tesla AI software & hardware, both training & inference. Purpose is recruiting.”
On July 29, CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter that Tesla would host an A.I. Day on August 19.
The name resembles previous “days” organized by Tesla:
- In April 2019, Tesla hosted an autonomy day. It explained that its new full self-driving computer chips could operate at 144 Tera operations per second, seven times better than the nearest competitor. This would be vital to making Teslas autonomous, as the computer needs to crunch through data at speed.
- In September 2020, Tesla hosted a battery day. This outlined the company’s planned 4680 cells, which will introduce several improvements. Together, Tesla claims these will enable a 54 percent increase in battery range between charges and a 56 percent reduction in price per kilowatt-hour.
Tesla A.I. Day: what will we learn at the event?
Based on Musk’s previous comments, the event will likely outline the company’s progress on A.I. training systems and related hardware.
Musk announced in October 2016 that all vehicles would start shipping with the necessary sensors to support fully autonomous driving. He also proposed that Tesla would complete a cross-country autonomous drive in 2017.
Tesla missed that deadline, and by October 2018, Musk had to admit that it was “extremely difficult to achieve a general solution for self-driving that works well everywhere.”
Tesla first unveiled its neural network training system called “Dojo” in 2019. Musk explained in 2020 that the computer is designed to process “truly vast amounts of video data.”
In June 2021, head of A.I. Andrej Kaparthy gave a presentation at the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition where he revealed more details. The supercomputer, TechCrunch reported, features 10 petabytes of “hot tier” storage and runs at 1.6 Terabytes per second.
The system features 1.8 exaflops of processing power. “Flops” measure the amount of floating-point operations per second. TechTerms describe floating-point numbers as ones with a floating decimal place. The “exa” prefix refers to the number one followed by 18 zeroes. By comparison, the PlayStation 5 features 10.3 Teraflops of graphics processor power. The “Tera” prefix refers to the number one followed by 12 zeroes.
Kaparthy claimed that Tesla’s supercomputer could be the fifth most powerful in the world, but it hasn’t yet run the required benchmarks for official designation in the “TOP500” rankings.
“Dojo” is used to train up the A.I. with features like auto-labeling. This takes video captured from the company’s car cameras, recognizes objects, and labels them with attributes like acceleration and speed. Around 500 employees previously did this, CleanTechnica explains, but in April 2021, the company revealed that those employees are now checking the work done by the auto-labeling system.
The system, according to Kaparthy’s presentation, has so far labeled six billion objects from one million captured videos.
Tesla started rolling out a beta of its full self-driving software to participants in October 2020. Under supervision, the early versions of this software show the company’s progress.
But while Tesla is making the most of A.I., Musk has called for greater overall regulation. In November 2017, he called for legislators to regulate A.I. “like we do food, drugs, aircraft, and cars.” The fear, he explained a few months before that, is that super-smart intelligence could enslave humanity without proper oversight.
Tesla A.I. Day: how to watch
On Tuesday, Musk confirmed that Tesla would live stream the A.I. Day.
Start times and livestream details are unconfirmed. Previous events suggest that Tesla will stream the event via its YouTube channel.
Fans keen to find out more can receive notifications when Tesla adds a new video:
- Visit the Tesla YouTube page.
- Sign in to your Google account in the top right corner. You can make an account in the same place if you don’t already have one.
- Once signed in, return to Tesla’s YouTube page and press the red “subscribe” button. This is free, despite the name.
- Press the bell next to the “subscribed” button and press “all.” Depending on your settings, you will now receive notifications to your email inbox, computer, or smartphone.
And that’s it! If you miss the livestream, it should be available via the company’s YouTube channel to watch at a later date.
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