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MUSK SAYS TESLA IS BUILDING ITS OWN CHIP FOR AUTOPILOT

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ROCKETS, ELECTRIC CARS, solar panels, batteries—whirlwind industrialist Elon Musk has set about reinventing one after another. Thursday, he added another ambitious project to the list: Future Tesla vehicles will run their self-driving AI software on a chip designed by the automaker itself.

“We are developing customized AI hardware chips,” Musk told a room of AI experts from companies such as Alphabet and Uber on the sidelines of the world’s leading AI conference. Musk claimed that the chips’ processing power would help Tesla’s Autopilot automated-driving function save more lives, more quickly, by hastening the day it can drive at least 10 times more safely than a human. “We get there faster if we have dedicated AI hardware,” he said. He didn’t say how far along Tesla is in developing a chip, or when it will start shipping inside vehicles.

This may not be the ideal time for Musk and Tesla to be juggling a new complex and expensive technical project. Some 400,000 people have plunked down $1,000 to join the waitlist for the company’s new Model 3 sedan, but last month Musk conceded production was months behind schedule.

Musk took the stage Thursday in a historic Spanish revival building in Long Beach, California. Alongside him were Andrej Karpathy, Tesla’s director of AI, and Jim Keller, a veteran chip engineer who became vice president in charge of Autopilot hardware last year. Their audience comprised 200 or so lucky attendees of NIPS, a premier academic machine-learning conference that has become a vital bragging and recruiting venue for leading tech companies.

Musk pitched his party as a kind of group hug with the AI community, parts of which he has sometimes been at odds with. He swore that he and Tesla care deeply about the field, and spoke of the company’s need for AI talent in software and hardware. Musk joked self-deprecatingly about his habit of using public appearances to warn that AI poses an existential threat to humanity. “You’ve all heard me sound the alarm bell—there he goes again,” he said, to friendly laughter from the free-drink swilling crowd. “I also think there are things where AI can really be useful, well before you get to godlike uber intelligence.”

As the evening wore on, Musk spoke of his worries about military uses of AI. And he suggested a regulatory agency of some kind might someday require very advanced AI systems to include ethical foundations. But Tesla’s primary use for AI is making sense of data from the cameras, radar, and other sensors through which its Autopilot system perceives the world.

Tesla owners are instructed to only use the system on highways today. Musk has said that a future software upgrade will permit “full self-driving” using the hardware inside existing vehicles. He repeated that claim Thursday, saying that the new chip in the works would improve the reliability of what was already possible. “If you have an order of magnitude more computing power, at a first order approximation that’s an order of magnitude more reliability,” he said.

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Article Credit: Wired

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