By on October 16, 2018

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says a new chip aimed at improving its vehicles’ Autopilot features will be available in about six months.

However, if you’re hoping the automaker is preparing to light some candles and knock its vehicles up with legitimate self-driving technology, you’ll need to keep on wishing. During a string of tweets on Tuesday, Musk explained that the new chip would be a $5,000 extra for customers who did not purchase their cars with the “Full Self-Driving” package — an automotive claim that’s about as valid as Donald Trump’s hair or Elizabeth Warren’s status as a Native American. 

It’s difficult to understand why anyone would purchase this item for $5,000 when it’s unclear what it would even do. Musk claims it drastically improves Autopilot’s processing capabilities, boosting the maximum number of operations per second between 500 and 2,000 percent. While incredible, Tesla’s cars are still left with the same array of sensors they’ve always had.

Relying primarily on visual cues via an array of cameras, Tesla’s setup lacks some of the equipment the industry has informally agreed upon as being absolutely necessary. Tesla doesn’t use lidar and, despite Autopilot being one of the more useful and least obtrusive semi-autonomous driving aids, it’s an older system deployed somewhat irresponsibly by the manufacturer.

This new chip won’t change any of that. While we’re sure it’s theoretically possible to make the vehicle’s CPU so powerful that it can make sense of just about anything picked up by cameras, there’s a sense that we aren’t quite there yet. Otherwise, we’d probably have bipedal robots delivering our mail and sweeping our floors before they eventually rise up to destroy us.

Tesla is simultaneous promising something and nothing with this new chip. It’s reminiscent of its last over-the-air update, which included the Version 9.0 software upgrade. Musk said 9.0 effectively improved ops per second by around 400 percent after correcting an Electrek article where a “deep learning expert” over-estimated its performance to a wild degree.

However, that article also explained why something like the chip could be useful. It might not bring about an immediate evolution of the Autopilot that’s currently in your Model S, but it does help to serve the greater good. By increasing processing power on a large number of its vehicles, Tesla should also be able to transmit more useful data into the cloud. While the ins and outs of the company’s machine learning setup are still kind of murky, we know it has something in place that it uses to aid in autonomous development. This could help expedite things, resulting in new functions at a later date.

There’s also a chance it could help Autopilot function a little more smoothly in the interim, assuming its shortcoming are on the processing end of things and not down to the limitations of its sensors. Still, we’re not convinced it’s worth shelling out five grand for something that doesn’t come with any kind of immediate, tangible gratification.

[Image: Tesla]

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23 Comments on “Musk Claims Tesla’s New Autopilot Chip Is Only Six Months Away...”


  • avatar
    Lockstops

    Oh. Hey wow. How exciting. *Yawn*

    So Tesla once again is claiming they’re soon about to come up with some blahblahhwatever? And conveniently far enough ahead that they can try to get funding based on the ‘excitement’ everyone’s suddenly fevered with due to those promises without having to worry about actually fulfilling any of their prophecies? Just far enough ahead that by the time they don’t deliver most fanboys will have forgotten since Musk has given them a new BS story to focus on (or tweet scandal).

    No wait it’s not 2012 anymore so only some stupid die-hard fans believe Tesla’s BS anymore so they won’t get the funding solely based on Musk’s ‘exciting fever dreams of future utopia’, and the company will finally fold.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    In six months, Tesla will be gone.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      I hope not.

    • 0 avatar

      “In six months, Tesla will be gone.” Says TTAC last 10 years. Tesla’s final goodbye is long overdue.

      • 0 avatar
        Christopher Coulter

        Yes, but 10 years ago, there was no viable competition in EVs. Tesla needs to be ready for the bottom to fall out of their market for the Model S once Porsche launches the Taycan, and for Model X demand to fall as potential buyers opt for something like the Jaguar I-Pace or the Audi E-tron SUV. The Model 3 doesn’t really have an obvious competitor just yet, but that won’t last either. I give Tesla 18 months, at which point they will have burned through all their cash and the brand will not have nearly the cachet that they have skated on for the last 5 years.

        • 0 avatar

          Porsche plays catch-up with Tesla. Tesla does not stay still though they are moving fast the next breakthrough. Porsche chances are pretty slim. For starters they should open research center in Silicon Valley. Their mindset is so 20th century.

    • 0 avatar
      Asdf

      Yes, or purchased by the Chinese, after which Tesla quality will plummet. (Even the Chinese will find it challenging at first to find ways to further reduce the quality of Tesla’s current low-quality products, but since cheap, low quality products is what they specialize in, I’m confident they’ll pull it off.)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “there’s a sense that we aren’t quite there yet”

    That’s a generous understatement.

    If I ever do buy a Tesla, it will be without Autopilot, and *particularly* without any features that may or may not work someday in the future. Some people are shelling out thousands of dollars for a ‘maybe’ feature.

    Does this chip promise SAE Level 5 autonomy? Whatever it does, it’s interesting that it’s a hardware upgrade – which indicates the existing hardware isn’t up to the task they once thought it was.

  • avatar

    Mr.Trumps hair is not valid and Ms.Warren is not an Indian Chief (she is dressed like one though)? I am shocked.

  • avatar
    mcs

    “Tesla’s setup lacks some of the equipment the industry has informally agreed upon as being absolutely necessary. Tesla doesn’t use lidar and,”

    The industry has not informally or formally agreed that it’s absolutely necessary. Current LIDAR technology is not ready for mass use and I see it as just a backup for prototype vehicles. It has a lot of problems. A long list. New improvements should make it useable, but it’s definitely not there yet. I don’t have time to go into all of the problems with it (it’s out on the net), but one of the worst problems is how it can be spoofed.

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/06/27/lidar_spoofed_bad_news_for_self_driving_cars/

    That problem alone makes it too dangerous for production vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      tylanner

      Laughably uninformed….

      “The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested five advanced driver assistance systems and reported that the Tesla Model 3 experienced the fewest incidents of crossing over a lane line, touching a lane line, or disengaging.”

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        IIRC, mcs works in the industry.

        Just because a vehicle exhibited ‘the fewest incidents of crossing over a lane line’ doesn’t make it safe enough. If my teen driver mentioned that behavior as a plus in their skill set, I’d take the keys back.

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      New Audis have lidar (tackily just smacked onto the front) now, so I’m assuming they’re good enough to be of much benefit. I’m saying you’re wrong about them not being good enough for reliable autonomous driving etc., just that I’d estimate that they’re at least of much help even with current performance. At least that they’re used for now. Rather with lidar than without.

      These assist and autonomous systems are useless junk, but one application seems to be very popular: adaptive cruise control. And with that it really does help to have more and better sensors, I found Audi’s radar&lidar system to work really well (except ironically it failed to be acceptable to me in some basics like stop-start traffic smoothness and stopping distance which are not sensor-dependent), it handled other traffic on other lanes in curves well etc., but I didn’t have the chance to test in water spray or other challenging conditions.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Am I the only one who thinks that the proper way to introduce a new technology is to build a functioning prototype AND THEN show it off?

    • 0 avatar
      cammark

      if your primary goal is to make money/run a business: secure the patent then inform current and potential investors of the value of the patented concept.

      however, In this case it seems more of a system upgrade than new technology. Not really show-off worthy in my opinion

  • avatar
    Asdf

    This is typical of Musk. He focuses on gimmicks, while ignoring the basics. When is he going to fix Tesla’s charging problem, with the charging time being excessively long when it shouldn’t take longer than filling a fuel tank? Musk needs to take care of that first.

  • avatar
    riggodeezil

    “Musk claims it drastically improves Autopilot’s processing capabilities…”

    With statements like these, it’s surprising that the “Legalize Pot Lobby” have not dug a hole for him in the desert. With each such utterance, he undoes all of the hard work that the LPL have done to refute the notion that a few tokes now and again will not cause one to become a brain-dead moron.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Since humans manage to drive cars using only their own ‘optical sensors,’ it would be at least theoretically possible for autonomous vehicles to do so without lidar.

  • avatar
    Frédéric-Alexandre Decelles

    Tesla is not a processor company. They don’t manufacture chips.

    If we are talking a cpu, they are using a newer processor. It’s not a revolution, it’s just an update. The chip that they are using must be old and slow with all those updates and it’s just a chip/motherboard swap.

    No way in hell it is worth 5k.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    So it can see fire trucks now?

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Matt, are you trying to channel Jack Baruth in your prose style here? That’s the vibe I’m getting and pardon me for saying so but it wears like an ill-tailored suit.


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