Tesla AI Day: what to expect from Elon Musk’s latest big announcement

It’s been nearly two years since Tesla’s first “Autonomy Day” event, at which CEO Elon Musk made numerous lofty predictions about the future of autonomous vehicles, including his infamous claim that the company would have “one million robotaxis on the road” by the end of 2020. And now it’s time for Part Deux.

This time, the event will be called “AI Day,” and according to Musk, the “sole goal” is to persuade experts in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence to come work at Tesla. The company is known for its high rate of turnover, the latest being Jerome Guillen, a key executive who worked at Tesla for 10 years before recently stepping down. Attracting and retaining talent, especially top tier names, has proven to be a challenge for the company.

The August 19th event is scheduled to start at 5PM PT / 8PM ET at Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto, California. According to an invitation obtained by Electrek, it will feature “a keynote by Elon, hardware and software demos from Tesla engineers, test rides in Model S Plaid, and more.” Much like Battery Day, the event will be livestreamed on Tesla’s website, giving investors and the media, as well as the company’s many fans, an up-close look at what’s under development.

Musk and other top officials at the company are expected to provide updates on the rollout of Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) beta version 9, which started reaching more customers this summer. We may also get details about Tesla’s “Dojo” supercomputer, the training of its neural network, and the production of its FSD computer chips. And there will also be “an inside look at what’s next for AI at Tesla beyond our vehicle fleet,” the invitation says.

Let’s start with what we know and work our way toward the speculation of what’s to come.

Tesla Gigafactory - Elon Musk

Photo by Patrick Pleul / picture alliance via Getty Images

FSD rollout

The big news out of Tesla’s first Autonomy Day was the introduction of the company’s first computer chip, a 260 square millimeter piece of silicon that Musk described as “the best chip in the world.” Originally, Musk had claimed that Tesla’s cars wouldn’t need any hardware updates, only software, on the road to full autonomy. Turns out that wasn’t exactly the case; they would need this new chip — two of them, actually — in order to eventually drive themselves.

A lot has happened between the 2019 event and now. Last month, Tesla began shipping over-the-air software updates for FSD beta v9, its long-awaited, definitely not autonomous, but certainly advanced driver assist system. That means that Tesla owners who have purchased the FSD option (which now costs $10,000) would finally be able to use many of Autopilot’s advanced driver-assist features on local, non-highway streets, including Navigate on Autopilot, Auto Lane Change, AutoPark, Summon, and Traffic Light and Stop Control.

The update doesn’t make Tesla’s cars fully autonomous, nor will it launch “a million self-driving cars” on the road, as Musk predicted. Tesla owners who have Full Self-Driving still need to pay attention to the road and keep their hands on the steering wheel. Some don’t, which can have tragic consequences.

Loved by fans, loathed by safety advocates, the FSD software has gotten Tesla in a lot of hot water recently. In recently publicized emails between Tesla and California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, the company’s director of Autopilot software made it clear that Musk’s comments (including his tweets) do not reflect the reality of what Tesla’s vehicles can actually do. And now Autopilot is under investigation by federal regulators who want to know why Teslas with Autopilot keep crashing into emergency vehicles.

Aside from the rollout of FSD beta v9, Tesla has also had to adjust to the global chip shortage. In a recent earnings call, Musk said that the company’s engineers had to rewrite some of their software in order to accommodate alternate computer chips. He also said that Tesla’s future growth will depend on a swift resolution to the global semiconductor shortage.

Tesla relies on chips to power everything from its airbags to the modules that control the vehicles’ seatbelts. It’s not clear whether the FSD chips, which are produced by Samsung, are being impacted by the shortage. Musk and his cohort may provide some insight into that during this week’s event.

Credit: Tesla


Outside the car, Tesla uses a powerful supercomputer to train the AI software that then gets fed to its customers via over-the-air software updates. In 2019, Musk teased this “super powerful training computer,” which he referred to as “Dojo.”

“Tesla is developing a [neural net] training computer called Dojo to process truly vast amounts of video data,” he later tweeted. “It’s a beast!”

He also hinted at Dojo’s computing power, claiming it was capable of an exaFLOP, or one quintillion (​​1018) floating-point operations per second. That is an incredible amount of power. “To match what a one exaFLOP computer system can do in just one second,” NetworkWorld wrote last year, “you’d have to perform one calculation every second for 31,688,765,000 years.”

By way of comparison, chipmaker AMD and computer builder Cray are currently working with the US Department of Energy on the design of the world’s fastest supercomputer, with 1.5 exaFLOPs of processing power. Dubbed Frontier, AMD says the supercomputer will have as much processing power as the next 160 fastest supercomputers combined.

When completed, Dojo is expected to be among the most powerful supercomputers on the planet. But rather than performing advanced calculations in areas like nuclear and climate research, Tesla’s supercomputer is running a neural net for the purposes of training its AI software to power self-driving cars. Ultimately, Musk has said Tesla will make Dojo available to other companies that want to use it to train their neural networks.

Earlier this year, Andrej Karpathy, Tesla’s head of AI, gave a presentation at the 2021 Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, during which he offered more details about Dojo and its neural network.

“For us, computer vision is the bread and butter of what we do and what enables Autopilot,” Karpathy said, according to Electrek. “And for that to work really well, we need to master the data from the fleet, and train massive neural nets and experiment a lot. So we invested a lot into the compute.”

Other robots?

Earlier this month, Dennis Hong, founder of the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory at UCLA, tweeted a photo of a computer chip that many speculate is the in-house hardware used by Tesla’s Dojo.

But Hong is an interesting figure for other reasons, too. He specializes in humanoid robots and was a participant in the DARPA Urban Challenge which kicked off the race for self-driving cars. (His team placed third.)

Asked on Twitter whether his lab was working with Tesla, Hong posted some playful emojis but otherwise declined comment. We may learn more about how Hong’s work and Tesla’s pursuits intersect during AI Day.

Musk has been forthcoming about his desires for Tesla to become more than just a car company. “I think long term, people will think of Tesla as much as an AI robotics company as we are a car company or an energy company,” he said earlier this year.


Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images

The future

A warning for anyone tuning in to the AI Day livestream: take Musk’s predictions about near-term accomplishments with a massive grain of salt. The things that will be discussed during this event are unlikely to have any measurable impact on the company’s business in the months to come.

Self-driving cars are an incredibly difficult challenge. Even companies like Waymo that are perceived to have the best autonomous vehicle technology are still struggling to get it right. Tesla is no different.

“A key question for investors will be what the latest timeline is for achieving full autonomy,” Loup Funds managing partner Gene Munster said in a note. “Despite Elon’s ambitious goal of the end of this year, our best guess is that 2025 will be the first year of public availability of level 4 autonomy.”

The rest of 2021 is already jam packed for Tesla. The company needs to open factories in Texas and Germany. And it needs to tool up production for its hotly anticipated Cybertruck, which has been delayed until 2022. Full autonomy, such as it is, can wait.

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Elon Musk’s new statue in NYC is proof that God is dead

What do you get the man who has everything? In the case of Elon Musk, you could get him a life-sized monument to his ego.

But that would be nearly impossible. You’d need to build a skyscraper to accurately represent the tycoon’s self-importance.

With budgetary constraints and planning permissions presumably in mind, investing app has instead constructed a six-foot statue of Musk to mark the great man’s 50th birthday — and plonked it in Manhattan.

The pose encapsulates Musk’s characteristic sense of smugness, but didn’t reveal the cause of his pleasure in the moment it was captured. Was it the arrival of another income tax bill of zero? A Twitter pile-on after baselessly slurring a heroic cave diver as a pedophile? A cryptocurrency collapse triggered by a sudden U-turn he made on bitcoin?

[Read: Why entrepreneurship in emerging markets matters]

One can only imagine the horrors that caused such rapture. But surely the residents of New York would welcome the new addition to their cityscape?

Apparently not. Rather than genuflecting before the statue of the blessed billionaire, the city’s ingrates have suggested throwing the chunk of bronze into the nearby Hudson River. One monster even envisioned using it as a public restroom.

It might not be the public artwork that New Yorkers wanted. But an unwelcome monument to the planet’s third-richest person is a timely totem to the USA‘s rising income inequality.

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Watch a monkey play Pong with its mind, thanks to Elon Musk’s Neuralink

Elon Musk hopes to put computer chips in our brains that will enable “human-AI symbiosis.” But for now, he’s focused on making monkeys play video games.

Musk’s Neuralink startup posted a video today of a primate playing Pong with its mind.

The nine-year-old macaque, called Pager, has a Neuralink implanted in his brain.

Pager was first trained to play Pong with a joystick in return for a banana smoothie reward.

As he played, his neural activity was captured by a 1,024 electrode device, called the N1 Link.

This data was transmitted to a decoder that mapped Pager’s neural patterns to his joystick movements. After a few minutes of calibration, the software could predict Pager’s movements by analyzing his brain activity.

[Read: Valve co-founder says brain-computer interfaces will let you ‘edit’ your feelings]

When the Neuralink team disconnected the joystick, Pager kept playing, using his mind alone. He still moved the unplugged joystick, however. The poor monkey has no idea that he’s now a cyborg.

Musk previously demoed a brain implant in a pig, called Gertrude, at an event in September. Gertrude hasn’t been seen since.

But swine and monkeys are only the start. Musk now plans to produce Neuralink device for people with paralysis.

If that goes well, Musk hopes to offer all of us brain implants, and ultimately merge human consciousness with AI. What could possibly go wrong?

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Published April 9, 2021 — 11:16 UTC

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Elon Musk’s Neuralink reportedly gives monkey mental gameplaying power

Elon Musk is both famous and infamous for his mind-blowing ideas and enterprises but one that’s almost literally so is the idea of hooking up brains to computers to allow the control of other computers using just brainpower. To prove that he’s actually serious, Musk even founded the startup Neuralink to research and develop the technology to make that happen. That startup has reportedly hit an important milestone, according to Musk, an achievement that includes implanting a chip on a “not unhappy” monkey in order to let it play a video game using mind control.

The actual goal of Musk and Neuralink is to cut out the middleman when it comes to interfacing with external computers. Musk says that humans today are practically like cyborgs because of their use and dependence on devices like phones and computers. That said, the connection between humans and computers, namely fingers or voice, are low-bandwidth and slow. Neuralink, therefore, wants to create a neural brain-to-machine interface that would make that almost as fast as a thought, quite literally, too.

That would, of course, require some sort of implant, and Neuralink’s design involves a chip that uses tiny wires to connect to the brain itself. Naturally, the company’s first experiments involve animals, from pigs to monkeys, and its CEO, none other than Musk, was only too proud to reveal their latest achievement.

On the nascent Clubhouse social media platform, Musk recounted how they successfully installed an implant on a monkey to allow it to play “mind Pong” with other monkeys. He didn’t go into much detail about how successful that last part was but assured listeners that it’s not an unhappy monkey. We’re likely to hear a more formal and public press release about this achievement soon.

The applications of Neuralink’s technologies could be far and wide, including near-telepathic communication that is the stuff of science fiction. More immediately, however, the brain-machine interface could give persons with physical disabilities like quadriplegics the ability to control machines, computers, and other devices just by thinking about it rather than having to rely on some alternative physical interface.

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