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Analyst praises Tesla’s AI potential

By Monte Stewart

18:03, 24 August 2021

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Elon Musk on Twitter
Elon Musk on Twitter - Photo: Shutterstock

Tesla’s new D1 computer chip could liberate the company from constraints and enable it to develop its AI system much faster than the competition, according to an analyst.

Frank Downing of New York-based asset manager ARK Investment Management said the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer now has the potential to fully own its self-driving hardware and software systems.

“If (the software-hardware integration) is fully implemented in 2022, Tesla would be the most deeply integrated ‘automotive company’ in the world,” wrote Downing in a research note.

EV company considers itself an AI producer

Tesla's AI technology is the backbone of its vehicles self-driving system. Downing put quotation marks around “automotive company” because Tesla aims to be more than an EV maker and considers itself an AI producer.

Downing based his comments on Tesla’s unveiling of its D1 computer chip at the company’s AI Day on 19 August.

The D1 chip is designed to work with Dojo, Tesla’s AI training supercomputer. During Tesla’s AI Day event, company founder Elon Musk said they expect Dojo to be operational in 2022.

By owning all components in its AI computing stack, including its chip and neural-network design, Tesla should be able to offer an AI system that performs faster than its competition, according to Downing.

“Not hostage to third parties shipping chips or fixing bugs, Tesla will be in full control,” wrote Downing.

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Downing’s comments came after Tesla founder Elon Musk described the company’s latest version of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) software as “not great.”

Musk said the company’s Autopilot software and AI team members are “rallying to improve” the FSD Beta 9.2 version “as fast as possible.”

“We’re trying to have a single stack for both highway and city streets, but it requires massive (neural-network) retraining,” wrote Musk on Twitter.

Tesla facing increased federal scrutiny

Tesla is facing increased US federal scrutiny into its vehicles’ Autopilot and FSD software. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Authority (NHTSA) has launched a fact-finding mission that could lead to more data being collected – and punishment – related to Tesla’s Autopilot software.

The NHTSA surrounds 11 crashes across the US since 2018 between Teslas and emergency vehicles, which injured 17 people and killed one person. The authority has confirmed the Tesla vehicles involved were using both Autopilot and Traffic Aware cruise-control systems.

In addition to the NHTSA probe, two US senators are seeking a federal investigation into Tesla over alleged false advertising of its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems.

Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts asked new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chair Lina Khan in a letter last Wednesday 18 August to investigate Tesla for “potentially deceptive and unfair practices” related to its marketing of the partial self-driving features in its EVs.

Although Tesla calls its self-driving software systems Autopilot and FSD, the company’s vehicles are not fully self-driven. US law requires a driver to control driver-assistance systems.

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