Tesla, at AI Day Event, Hints at Cybertruck Release Date and Promises a Robot

Tesla, at AI Day Event, Hints at Cybertruck Release Date and Promises a Robot

BY ANNIE WHITE | CarAndDriver.Com

Troy Warren for CNT #Cars

Tesla held an event on Thursday to show off its self-driving technology, tease future upgrades, and announce plans to build a humanoid robot.

During its AI Day event, Tesla showed an animated video rendering of a car equipped with its self-driving technology navigating traffic and making turns without prompting from the human in the driver’s seat, presumably as a promise for technology to come. 

The company also showed off a proprietary microchip designed to run the supercomputer, called Dojo, that Tesla uses for all of its cars’ self-driving functions.

Toward the end of the event, Musk stood on stage with a dancer wearing a robot costume as he claimed Tesla is going to build a humanoid robot prototype by next year.

Tesla held an event in Palo Alto, California, on Thursday evening designed to show off the potential of the brand’s autonomous vehicle and artificial intelligence technology. The event, called AI Day, was similar in concept to Tesla’s Battery Daylast fall, though this AI event was perhaps more focused on recruiting new engineers than impressing investors and the public.

During the event, which is available to view on Tesla’s YouTube channel, Tesla showed footage of its self-driving software in action, made big promises about future improvements to the technology, and promised to develop a prototype of a humanoid robot within the next year. All against the backdrop of a new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation into 11 incidents in which Teslas have crashed into parked emergency vehicles while the Teslas had either the Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control features engaged.

The day started off with a video rendering of a Tesla navigating traffic, intersections, and other obstacles without guidance from the human driver. From there, Tesla’s AI experts delved into detailed explanations of how Tesla’s computers parse information from the self-driving system’s cameras. Tesla has somewhat controversially chosen to use only information from cameras to inform its cars’ driver assistance features. Many driver assistance systems use cameras in tandem with radar or lidar sensors.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the hardware currently available in Teslas is capable of being “at least 200 percent to 300 percent better” than a human driver, and that a new hardware setup will be even more proficient. Musk said the new hardware is slated to debut in the Cybertruck “in a year or so,” giving us our first hint of when Tesla’s pickup might hit the roads after its production timeline was quietly pushed back earlier this month.

All of that capability will rely on Tesla’s supercomputer, called Dojo, and the proprietary microchip Tesla has developed to run said supercomputer. Tesla developed its own chip partly in hopes of avoiding the kind of supply-chain problems that have regularly forced automakers to pause new car production over the course of the last year. Musk said on an earnings call earlier this year that Tesla engineers had to rewrite their own software so it would function on the alternate microchips Tesla sourced when its preferred chips were unavailable.

At the conclusion of the event, just before the question and answer session during which he referenced his “alien dreadnought” factory concept, Elon Musk appeared on stage with a dancer in a robot costume and announced that Tesla is working on a humanoid robot prototype that will be able to deadlift 150 poundsand run at 5 mph. Musk promised the robot would be friendly, but also said it was designed so that humans would be able to overpower it and outrun it. Maybe Musk is in better shape than the rest of us, but we’d be more comfortable with a robot that can’t run at all.

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By Troy Warren

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