Tesla AI Day 2021 Event Recap

By Henry Farkas

Tesla AI day was last night and most of the event was an in-depth look at how Tesla is solving FSD and all the problems their solving and methods they're using. It definitely wasn't aimed at at the casual consumer.

Tesla AI Day 2021

There was some interesting video where they showed how the integration of all the cameras could predict where other traffic is located, and do it better than the combination of a few cameras combined with radar. We had to take their word for it that the camera integration did a better job. It did look that way on the computer views. Elon also pointed out that they use the Autopilot software not only to drive the car but to predict where the other cars on the road are likely to be in the next few seconds.

Later in the show, things got more interesting. They brought out a person dressed like a robot who danced around a bit. Elon came out again and showed a plan for a human-shaped Tesla robot. He admitted that the one that had danced around the stage wasn't the actual robot, but said that's what the Tesla robot would look like. The purpose of the robot is to perform chores that humans might find boring, repetitive, or dangerous.

Elon mentioned that Teslas are basically semi-sentient robots on wheels. He said that the human-shaped Tesla bot would come out next year. The robots will be friendly and will be able to navigate a world built for humans. They will be five feet eight inches tall and weigh 125 pounds, The face will be a computer screen. The hands will look like human hands and have five fingers. The Tesla bot will be able to walk at five miles/hour. That's faster than normal human walking speed, but most people can run faster than that.

Elon casually mentioned that most people could run away from it and most likely overpower it. He hoped it wouldn't be necessary, but, he said, “You never know.”

So then, he said that the robots would be able to shop for people, do chores around the house, and do repetitive jobs in the workplace. He admitted that having robots available to do jobs in the workplace would be a problem unless there was a universal basic income. That got a cheer from the audience. So I guess there were lots of Andrew Yang fans in the audience.

Then the question period started. The first question was asked of Musk, did he plan to make any of his software open-source? He said that creating it cost too much to just give it away, but he'd be willing to license it to other car companies.

Another interesting question was about whether audible cues would be incorporated into the FSD computer. Elon admitted that it would be important for a fully autonomous car to hear sirens from emergency vehicles, and he said that if someone was yelling at the car from the outside, a fully autonomous car should be able to understand what was being said. It'll be interesting how Tesla plans to tackle this problem for vehicles without external microphones.

Later, someone asked if FSD would work in other countries. Elon said that they were focusing first on the US, but the point was made that driving is very similar in other countries. Elon mentioned that they use training data from fifty countries and that the prime directive of FSD is, “Don't crash.” And that's true in every country. He says that right now, the car is pretty good at not crashing. Clearly, pretty good is not good enough since the drivers still need to pay attention, but the FSD is programmed to not crash into anything on the highway even if it's something it doesn't recognize like a UFO that just crashed on the highway.

I have to mention, here, an experience I had while FSD was engaged. I was driving along a road at night, and I saw a rock in the middle of the road. It was clear that the car didn't see it, and I had to quickly steer around it because it was too late to stop by the time the rock appeared in my headlights. Now I don't have the beta version of FSD, but it's clear Tesla still has some work to do here.

Later, someone asked what will happen with FSD once hardware 4 gets into production. Elon said that hardware 3 will be able to drive much better than any human driver once the software is finished. He says that hardware 4 will come out with the Cybertruck, and it will be able to drive better than hardware 3, but that doesn't mean that hardware 3 is unable to drive. He pointed out that not every regular human driver is the best driver on the road, but that doesn't mean that the regular driver isn't allowed to drive.

An amusing question got asked about whether the car could be spoofed by a picture. Elon suggested that he doesn't see many paintings of tunnels on rock walls as in Wiley E. Coyote cartoons. He mentioned that he has a T-shirt with a stop sign on the front. He says that if someone flashes a Tesla with such a T-shirt, the car will stop, but that Tesla will soon train edge cases like these and the car will learn what is a real stop sign versus a fake one.

Toward the end, someone asked whether we should worry that AI will have its own priorities that might be different from the priorities of the owners of the artificially intelligent robots. Elon said that right now, we're not anywhere near the kind of self-aware super-intelligent robots that people worry about. A car may be able to drive better than most humans. A robot may be able to do boring, repetitive or dangerous activities. That doesn't mean that cars and robots might rise up and rebel against humans. He's going to program his cars and his robots to be “Unequivocally good.”

Elon's final comment about cars was that eventually, cars will drive themselves just like elevators now drive themselves. You get in an elevator, press a button, and it takes you where you want to go. There aren't elevator operators anymore. Eventually, self-driving cars will be the norm. He says that there will still be a few gasoline cars and cars that need to be driven by a human being, just like now, there are still a few horses. But non-self-driving cars will be rare.

You can view the full Tesla AI Day event below:

Henry Farkas is a retired country doctor. He bought his Tesla Model 3 in the middle of the pandemic.

Tesla's Dojo Project Faces Leadership Shakeup

By Kevin Armstrong
Dojo Leadership Shake up
Dojo Leadership Shake up

Ganesh Venkataramanan, Tesla’s project lead for its ambitious Dojo supercomputer project for the past five years, has left the company. Bloomberg reported this development, stating that the news was confirmed by sources familiar with the matter. Peter Bannon, a former executive at Apple Inc. and a director at Tesla for the last seven years, has now taken the helm of the project.

Venkataramanan's departure from Tesla last month is now stirring conversations about the potential impacts on Tesla's future initiatives. His contributions to the Dojo project have been pivotal, especially in designing the custom D1 chip that powers the supercomputer. Venkataramanan, with his extensive experience, including a significant tenure at Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), was a crucial asset in setting up Tesla’s AI hardware and silicon teams in 2016.

Dojo: A Cornerstone for Tesla’s Self-Driving Aspirations

The Dojo supercomputer is a critical element of Tesla's strategy to enhance its self-driving capabilities. Designed to train machine learning models integral to Tesla's autonomous systems, Dojo processes vast amounts of data captured by Tesla vehicles. This rapid data processing is essential for improving the company’s algorithms, with analysts suggesting that Dojo could be a significant competitive advantage for Tesla. In a recent estimation by Morgan Stanley, the project could potentially add $500 billion to Tesla’s value.

Elon Musk has been vocal about the company's commitment to the Dojo project, planning an investment exceeding $1 billion by the end of 2024. The project's importance was underscored in Tesla's decision to shift from relying on Nvidia Corp.’s supercomputers to developing Dojo, poised to rival systems from Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. and IBM.

Looking Ahead: Impact and Future Prospects

The recent leadership changes raise questions about the future direction of the Dojo project. Venkataramanan's exit, coupled with the departure of another critical artificial intelligence player from Tesla last year, Andrej Karpathy, signals a transition period for the company’s AI and self-driving teams.

However, Tesla's robust talent pool, blending experienced and emerging professionals, offers a silver lining. Bannon's promotion to lead the Dojo project is seen as a strategic move, leveraging his experience and insights gained from his tenure at Apple. Moreover, the recent installation of Dojo hardware in Palo Alto, California, marks a step forward in centralizing and enhancing the project’s capabilities.

Tesla’s ambitions for Dojo extend to making it one of the world’s top supercomputers. The company envisions reaching a computational capability of 100 exaflops* by October 2024, a testament to its commitment to advancing artificial intelligence and self-driving technology.

* Confused about "exaflops?" "Flops" stands for Floating Point Operations Per Second. It's a way to measure how fast a computer can process data. "Exa" means a billion billion, or 1, followed by 18 zeros (1,000,000,000,000,000,000). So, when we say a computer can perform 100 exaflops, it can do 100 billion billion calculations per second. That's incredibly fast!

New Parking Visualizations and Custom Locking Sounds Also Coming in Tesla's Holiday Update

By Kevin Armstrong
Tesla is adding a new 'High Fidelity Park Assist' feature in this year's Holiday Update
Tesla is adding a new 'High Fidelity Park Assist' feature in this year's Holiday Update

Following initial reactions to Tesla's 2023 Holiday Update, Elon Musk acknowledged the need for improvement, stating, "We need to step up our game." His post on X was followed by Tesla shedding more light on the Holiday Update than what was in the initial leak.

Call me old, but I remember a time when you bought a car, and that was it; the dealer and manufacturer didn’t give you anything else. So is the Tesla community acting a little bit spoiled here? Absolutely. But it also shows how high Tesla has set the bar with its previous Holiday Updates.

Initial Release and Feedback

The initial release of the 2023 Holiday Update, version 2023.44.25, received mixed reactions from the Tesla community, with some owners expressing disappointment over the lack of groundbreaking new features. But the newly announced features may serve as better stocking stuffers.

The initial rollout included something owners have been asking for, the blind spot monitor. The camera that turns on when you change lanes will now have a red color added if there is something in your blind spot. It’s not clear whether it will be accompanied by a tone.

Here are other features in the leaked update that are being tested by employees:

Navigation and Safety Features: Including symbols for speed cameras, stop signs, and traffic lights in navigation, and the automatic 911 call feature in case of an accident.

Trip Planning via Tesla Mobile App: Allowing for more detailed trip planning, including multiple stops and charging points.

Apple Podcasts Integration: Allowing users to sync with Apple devices for a seamless podcast experience, directly addressing the demand for a richer in-car entertainment system.

New Games and Enhancements: The update brought updates to Tesla Arcade, with Beach Buggy Racing and Polytopia Diplomacy updates, as well as the Vampire Survivors Chilling update.

Light Show Improvements: There’s a new light show that’s included with your vehicle. You’ll also be able to upload several light shows on a single USB drive and pick one from the vehicle, instead of having to use multiple USB drives, one for each light show.

More Live Sentry Mode Cameras: You will now be able to view the B-pillar cameras directly from the Tesla app. This brings the number of viewable cameras in the app up to seven. The only ones still missing are the alternative front-facing cameras that are telephoto and wide-angle, which wouldn’t bring much additional value. Although the B-pillars are viewable in the app with this update, they will still not be used to record during Dashcam or Sentry Mode events.

High-Fidelity Park Assist

Tesla's High Fidelity Park Assist
Tesla's new parking assist feature will dynamically recreate scenes in real-time

In response to the feedback and Musk's statement, Tesla unveiled additional features in its updated holiday update, including an improved park assist with enhanced visualizations.

This feature provides a 3D reconstruction of the vehicle's surroundings while parking, akin to a 360-degree camera system found in other high-end vehicles. The system is clearly leveraging improvements to Tesla Vision to create the surrounding environment, such as cars, pillars and walls.

This feature also appears to change the color of objects depending on how close they are to your vehicle. In the image we can see the pillars are orange, but if we look closer, the object behind the vehicle is also orange near the bottom. The sides of the vehicles next to the Tesla also have a slight hint of orange, indicating their proximity.

However, it looks like this feature may be even better than it initially looks. The vehicles in the image aren’t just predefined 3D models that Tesla created, like the ones used in Autopilot visualizations. These models appear to be dynamically created using vision, so that no two cars would look alike, much more similar to what LiDar is able to achieve. The visualization provides a true representation of the environment around the vehicle. You can see that each vehicle is made up from layers and have blurred edges toward the rear, where the camera would have a hard time seeing.

These 3D models could be a sneak peek at the future of FSD visualizations.

High-Fidelity Park Assist Requirements

A big question on everyone’s mind is who will receive this new park assist feature. Tesla didn’t address this in their post on X besides providing a disclaimer that the features in the holiday release are subject to model and region availability. Tesla often likes to test features in select markets before making them available everywhere. It’s hard to say whether that will be the case here. There likely aren’t any legal ramifications around providing visualizations, so that’s a good sign that this feature will be available in most regions, either in the holiday update, or soon afterward.

However, there are still questions around which models or hardware will be required. From the image shared, we can see it’s offered on a Model Y, removing any speculation of it possibly requiring the HD radar in the new Model S/X. We also don’t think it will require FSD hardware 4.0, so the remaining questions are whether it requires MCU 3, or the FSD package.

Given that Tesla is calling this Park Assist, it doesn’t appear to be linked to Auto Park, which is a FSD package feature. When Tesla rolled out visual and audio alerts for vehicles without ultrasonic sensors, it called the feature Park Assist, and that was available to all owners.

Whether this improved Park Assist feature requires a vehicle with MCU 3 will depend on the level of processing power required. It’ll certainly require more than the current visualizations given that its building the scene in real-time, so we’re hopeful that it’ll work on MCU 2 vehicles too, but we just don’t have enough information right now to make the call.

Custom Lock Sounds

Soon you'll be able to choose a custom locking sound for your car
Soon you'll be able to choose a custom locking sound for your car
Not a Tesla App

Tesla also announced a fun and whimsical feature that allows owners to customize the lock sound of their Tesla. No longer will you need to listen to the car’s horn when it locks as you walk away. Now you’ll be able to customize the lock sound of the vehicle. Tesla is including several options, including sounds like a screaming goat, a jingle, a rubber ducky, a quack sound, an old school horn and applause. However, you’ll also be able to upload your own file to create a truly unique experience.

You can pick anything, from a bird’s tweet to a favorite video game sound. You’ll only be limited by the maximum upload file size, which according to a Tesla engineer, is a 1MB file in WAV format, which is roughly about 40 seconds at good quality.

This feature is possible due to the vehicle’s external pedestrian warning speaker. So if you have Tesla’s Boombox feature or your vehicle makes a sound when traveling under 20 MPH, then you should receive this fun enhancement.

Rear Seat Audio and Gaming

You'll now be able to play games on Tesla's rear screens
You'll now be able to play games on Tesla's rear screens

Enhancing the Tesla Arcade experience, passengers in the rear seats can now play games on the rear touchscreen. This feature, especially when paired with Tesla Arcade’s compatibility with PS4, PS5, Xbox Controllers, and rear-screen Bluetooth Headsets, is a welcome addition for families and long trips.

Much like the new Model 3, which received rear audio over Bluetooth support in the 2023.38 update, the new Model S and Model X will also receive this ability in the holiday update.

New Game - Castle Doombad

Tesla announced one other feature in the 2023 holiday update that hadn’t been previously leaked, and that’s a new game called Castle Doombad. Castle Doombad is a single player tower defense, puzzle-like game that’s currently available on iOS and Android, but has an upcoming release on PC and the Nintendo Switch. This game is expected to require MCU 3.

Release Timeline

The rollout of the 2023 Holiday Update is expected to follow a similar timeline to last year. Tesla announced that the update will roll out starting next week. However, it’s not clear whether this will also include FSD Beta testers that are on a 2023.27 update.

Looking back at the 2022 Holiday Update, it started on December 13 and took about a week to get to the entire fleet.

Speculation on Future Features

Like a spoiled child on Christmas morning, Tesla owners still ask, “Is that it?” Well… possibly, but there may be more to look forward to early next year as Tesla builds off of the new High-Fidelity Park Assist feature.

Advanced Smart Summon: Upgrading the Smart Summon feature to be more intuitive and efficient, especially in complex parking scenarios.

Reverse Summon / Park Seek: What happened to Tesla dropping its passengers and driver off at the location and then finding a parking spot on its own?

Enhanced FSD Visualizations: Expanding the Full Self-Driving visualizations to more regions or models or completely recreating the FSD visualizations using the same neural networks Tesla is using for the High-Fidelity Park Assist feature.

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Although we share official Tesla release notes, we are not affiliated with Tesla Motors. We are Tesla fans and supporters.

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Take a look at features that Elon Musk has said will be coming soon.


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