Tesla AI Day Zooms Closer

With its first Artificial Intelligence Day just around the corner, I take a look at Tesla’s current progress towards achieving full self-driving capabilities

little bird told me that Tesla soon plans to hold an Artificial Intelligence Day. Or was it a drone? Actually, neither…it was Elon Musk himself. And of course, he didn’t call me personally, instead sharing the welcome news on Twitter.

In a post earlier this week, the electric vehicle & clean energy company’s CEO said the event will likely take place “in about a month or so” and will “go over progress with Tesla AI software & hardware, both training & inference”. He closed with a few words bound to get a few engines revving: “purpose is recruiting”. Ooh, interesting!

Musk is explicit in his message that the day’s key goals are to showcase the headway made by Telsa in AI and to attract new talent in the field. Even so, the Jessica Fletcher in me can’t help but wonder if the bold billionaire has a little trick or two up his sleeve. Do you think there’s any chance he’s drumming up a spot of publicity for more than just a progress report and recruitment drive? Might we be in for a big launch?

Who knows, but Tesla’s 2019 Autonomy Day didn’t pull any white rabbits out of the hat. It’s an exciting thought though, huh? Whether or not there’s more to the event than meets the eye, it’ll be great to see how far Tesla has come in recent years — I’m sure we’ll be blown away.

Musk’s announcement was hot on the wheels of Andrej Karpathy’s virtual appearance at the 2021 Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR 2021). In his presentation, after confessing to an ironic lack of Zoom experience, the firm’s Senior Artificial Intelligence Director plugged what he referred to as an “insane supercomputer.” Under construction as we speak, this will accelerate Dojo into the future. What’s Dojo?

Dojo is Tesla’s 4-D autopilot training programme, about which Musk Tweeted back in August 2020: “Tesla is developing a neural network training computer called Dojo to process truly vast amounts of video data”, he said before describing the powerful machine as “a beast” and calling for “exceptional candidates” to help steer the project in the right direction.

Tesla plans to achieve autonomous driving capabilities by strengthening its neural network rather than relying on LiDar like most other big players in the market, including Waymo and GM Cruise. This is why a behemoth like Dojo is a crucial element of the company’s ambitious mission.

Hardly backwards in coming forwards, Musk has long been outspoken about his contempt for LiDar as a necessary component in developing fully autonomous vehicles. At the Autonomy Day, he called it “a fool’s errand”, adding that anyone relying on the tech is “doomed”. He has been equally outspoken about his belief in the company’s neural network, which he argues outperforms LiDar by miles.

Karpathy agreed with his boss, brilliantly quipping to the audience: “you used your own neural network in your brains to get here — you didn’t shoot lasers from your eyes to drive”. Are you sure about that, Andrej?

Like Dojo, the obvious demand for new AI talent in both tweets mentioned above demonstrates that an elite Artificial Intelligence team is also crucial to Tesla beating its competitors to true self-driving capabilities. Karpathy confirmed as much when he took to Twitter the very same day Musk announced the company’s AI Day. He said: “necessary ingredients include: a one-million-car fleet, data engine, strong AI team & supercomputer”.

As if the message wasn’t already plain as day, Musk commented on Karpathy’s post, once again tempting the world’s finest engineers with the automaker’s shiny career prospects “joining Tesla…fastest path to deploying your ideas in real life”. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get the feeling that Tesla needs talent! Great opportunity for anyone with the right skills, so get in there if you’ve got ‘em.

I’m no engineer, so my involvement won’t extend beyond watching the stream. Autonomy Day was great (if a little flawed in a couple of ways), so if AI Day promises to be anything like that, I can’t wait.

Behavioural psychologist; AI-quisitive; EY UK&I Client Technology & Innovation Officer. Views my own & don't represent EY’s position. catrionacampbell.com