A few days before the Q1 2021 Tesla Earnings Call, CEO Elon Musk touched upon the idea of Tesla as a leader in artificial intelligence. He replied to a meme shared by @Billhuang688 that asked, “What if I told you that Tesla will become the largest AI company in the world?” Elon noted that Tesla could become one of the largest but also said that a company whose name rhymed with Schmoogle is pretty far ahead at the moment. Although Google may be far ahead, Tesla is definitely transforming into something other than the automaker it started out as in 2003.
Certainly one of the largest. A company whose name rhymes with Shmoogle is pretty far ahead.
But I think we’re the leader in shallow-minded AI haha!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 15, 2021
Google, which has created DeepMind and AlphaGo, has shown impressive demonstrations of AI in real-world and theoretical situations, Benzinga pointed out. That article also pointed out that Waymo, which is working on autonomous vehicles, is a subsidiary of Google. This should be kept in mind simply because Elon is pointing out that Google is in the lead in general — he’s not going after Google in the same sense that other automakers and critics have come after him. It shows what his mind is focused on, and Tesla itself is a reflection of this.
Elon’s Mention Of Artificial Intelligence In Tesla’s Q1 2021 Earnings Call
During Tesla’s first earnings call for this year, Elon pointed out that Tesla has seen a “real shift” in how customers perceive electric vehicles and noted that Tesla’s demand is the best he’s ever seen. However, Tesla couldn’t have gotten to where it was without wearing many other hats besides that of “automaker.”
Tesla has been at the center of discussions around autonomous vehicles over the last few years as Elon has been very transparent about his and Tesla’s goals in this respect. This is what he said about Full Self Driving (FSD) Beta and artificial intelligence during Tesla’s Q1 2021 earnings call:
“Then with regard to Full Self Driving. Full Self Driving Beta continues to make great progress.
“It is definitely one of the — I think one of the hardest technical problems that exists, that’s maybe ever existed. And really, in order to solve it, we basically need to solve a pretty significant part of artificial intelligence, specifically real-world artificial intelligence. And that sort of AI, the neural net, needs to be compressed into a fairly small computer, a very efficient computer that was designed, but nonetheless, a small computer that’s using on the order of 70 or 80 watts. So this is a much harder problem than if you were you, say, 10,000 computers in a server room or something like that.
“This has got to fit into a smaller space. And this — I think with the elimination of radar, we’re finally getting rid of one of the last crutches. Radar was really — it was making up for some of the shortfalls of vision, but this is not good. You actually just need vision to work.
“And when your vision works, it works better than the best human because it’s like having eight cameras, it’s like having eyes in the back of your head, besides your head, and has three eyes of different focal distances looking forward … and processing it at a speed that is superhuman. There’s no question in my mind that with a pure vision solution, we can make a car that is dramatically safer than the average person. So — but it is a hard problem because we are actually solving something quite fundamental about artificial intelligence, where we basically have to solve real-world vision AI.
“And we are. So — and key to solving this is also having some massive data set. So just having well over 1 million cars on the road that are collecting data from very sort of corner case rare situations — sort of like so many weird things in the world like a truck carrying a truck or a car with — one example is like a car as an actual example, a car with a kayak on the roof where the kayak has a little weight dangling from the front of the kayak in front of the car and — but yet the car must ignore this and just look at the road. So, it’s really quite tricky, but I am highly confident that we will get this done.”
Tesla Is Solving One Of The Hardest Technical Problems That Ever Existed
Tesla’s core mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainability, and it’s doing this through both its energy and automotive sides. In the case of automotive, Tesla wants to create more than just an electric vehicle — also something unique and that its customers will love. Tesla is focused on safety and preventing as many accidents as possible as well. Despite recent headlines that were not only sensationalized but spreading misinformation about accidents, Tesla’s vehicles have a stellar record of safety and Autopilot has saved countless lives. However, there’s always a better solution, which brings Tesla’s work in artificial intelligence into focus.
Solving the real-world vision of artificial intelligence is something that Tesla has been working on for a while, and Elon pointed out that that the key to this is having a massive data set. He also dove into details of how AI’s vision works. Elon brought up the multiple cameras and the superhuman processing speed and noted that Tesla can make a car that is much safer than the average person.
If you had the abilities that he described, you’d be highly sought after. Imagine being able to see from your ears while processing what you see as you’re doing something else that requires your full attention. This is what Tesla is trying to make with its AI, what it is trying to implement in its vehicles to keep its customers safe from common threats on the highway.
This transformation from being an automaker into being an AI leader is something that will save lives. It will also set the standard for the future of vehicles in general. Furthermore, such AI could be used much more broadly.
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