Tesla making its own self-driving car AI chips


02 Aug 2018

Tesla is making AI chips in-house for its self-driving cars

On the back of its biggest loss ever to the tune of $717mn in just one quarter, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced that the company is building its own AI chips for its self-driving cars.

Up until now, Tesla had been relying on NVIDIA's Drive technology to power self-driving capabilities in its Model S, Model X, and Model 3 cars.

Here's more.

Hardware 3

Tesla had been developing the chips stealthily for 2-3 years

Tesla had been developing the chips stealthily for 2-3 years

Known as Hardware 3 or the Tesla computer, the Tesla-built AI chips had been in development "in semi-stealth mode...basically for the last 2-3 years", said CEO Elon Musk during the earnings call.

The chips are meant to replace NVIDIA Drive tech in the aforementioned car models for do all the number-crunching required for advancing self-driving capabilities of these, and future models.

What drove Tesla to design its own AI chips

"The key is to be able to run the neural network at a fundamental, bare metal level. You have to do these calculations in the circuit itself, not in some sort of emulation mode, which is how a GPU or CPU would operate," explained Musk.

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Hardware 3 is much more capable, claims Musk

Tesla's motivation behind developing chips in-house was purpose-specific specialization and improving efficiency.

According to Musk, Tesla's Hardware 3 demonstrated dramatic performance improvements over the current practice of running Tesla's computer vision on NVIDIA's hardware.

Notably, whereas NVIDIA's hardware was crunching 200 frames per second, Hardware 3 demonstrated the ability to crunch 2,000 frames per second "with full redundancy and failover".

AI analyst James Wang thinks in-house development is important


Building for its own needs could be real strength

Building for its own needs could be real strength

The most important thing about Hardware 3 is that it allows Tesla to build for its own specific needs at its own pace - if they think current hardware is lacking, they don't have to wait for third-parties to build the desired improvements.

With Musk claiming that Tesla's chips cost the same as bought hardware, it might turn out to be a real strength.

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