Tag: tesla

Tesla AI day 2021 Recap and Takeaways

The purpose of Tesla AI Day is to get the world excited about what Tesla is doing in artificial intelligence beyond cars.

AI day is also a recruiting event for prospective engineers as the company ramps up hiring.

Key Takeaways from Tesla AI Day 2021

Source: Tesla AI day

Make useful AI that people love, and is unequivocally good. – Elon Musk

  • Vertical integration is a common theme in the presentation. For both software, hardware, neural net training, and more. This means that Tesla builds and designs a large percentage of their technology in house.
  • The company is able to auto label data sets as well as create simulation data sets with unlimited scenarios for training the neural network.
  • DOJO is Tesla’s supercomputer designed for one purpose – training neural networks. It will be in use and available next year.
  • The neural net architecture resembles the visual cortex of an animal.
  • They will build a humanoid robot (see Tesla Bot at right)
  • TLDR: skynet is born? Hopefully not. Although Elon said that human-level superintelligence is certainly possible, both the car and the Tesla Bot are examples of building “narrow AI” to avoid AI being misaligned with humans.

FSD beta version 9

FSD (Full-self-driving) is the autonomous system that is deployed to all cars, which customers can purchase for around $10,000.

The often debated fact that Tesla does not use LIDAR, as do many other autonomy oriented companies like GM cruise or Google Waymo, means that its cars use only cameras to gather data about the surroundings and navigate the world. Although the company mentioned plans to upgrade the cameras, the current cameras are still more than good enough.

The philosophy behind this decision is that roads were built for human eyes to see and navigate. Therefore, the cars should be able to gather sufficient data to navigate autonomously using only cameras.

Elon jokingly stated that because of this, someone could technically wear a T-shirt with a stop sign on it, and the car would stop. But ultimately, the company seems confident that cameras will be sufficient.

“It’s clearly headed to way better than human. Without a question.” – Elon Musk

Note: Tesla cars are not yet fully autonomous. Drivers still need to keep their attention and focus on the road at all times. [1]

Tesla still has yet to reach High Driving Automation level of autonomy (known as Level 4 Autonomy)

FSD driver-assist benefits:

  • Navigate on Autopilot
  • Auto Lane Change
  • AutoPark
  • Summon
  • Traffic Light and Stop Control

Neural Net Architecture

There are 8 cameras surrounding the video that capture images of the real world. Tesla’s system uses these images to create a 3D reconstruction of the scene in “vector space”.

Using these images and vector space rendering, the system makes predictions about what the car may encounter a few moments into the future, allowing the car to drive itself safely and without running into anything.

As the neural network improves as it is trained on more and more data, Tesla is slowly building a brain-like neural net that resembles the visual cortex of an animal.

The presenters mentioned that everything Tesla is building is fundamentally country agnostic. Although they are optimizing the neural net models for the US at this point, they will be able to extrapolate to other countries as well in the future.

The ability to plan allows the car to predict and make changes about what other cars are doing on the road in real time.

Predictive and planning themed capabilities aside, the upper limit of the neural network has enough power to remember all of the roads and highways on planet Earth.

The presentation spent a significant amount of time diving into the specifics of Tesla’s Neural Net Architecture. For specifics, watch the replay of the 2021 AI day livestream.

Source: Tesla

Training Neural Networks – Data Required

Every time a human driver gets inside a Tesla, they are helping to train the neural network. Although this may make an incremental improvement, this is not enough training data.

These networks have hundreds of millions of parameters – it is incredibly important to get as many data sets as possible to create 3D renderings in vector space.

Millions of labels are needed, and each piece of data is essentially just a small video clip. Associated with each clip, you have the actual image/video data, odometer information, GPS coordinates, and more.

Tesla needs millions of vector space data sets to train these neural networks. In the spirit of vertical integration, there was formerly a team at Tesla that tediously labeled all of that data. But manual labeling proved to be too slow – there is a better way.

Auto Labeling Data Sets

Tesla developed an auto labeling system, allowing them to generate extremely large training data sets much faster for training the neural network. The auto labeling mechanism is extremely important.

“Without auto labeling, we would not be able to solve the self driving problem.” – Elon Musk


In addition to real-world data sets from camera footage, Tesla also is creating simulations of traffic scenarios.

It is like a video game, where Tesla Autopilot is the player. Simulation is helpful when data is difficult to source, difficult to label, or is in a closed loop.

Algorithms are able to create the simulation scenarios. These algorithms analyze where the system is failing, and then create more data around the failure points to allow the neural network to learn, improve, and handle those scenarios better in the future.

Elon specifically discouraged the use of machine learning because it is extremely difficult, and largely not the right solution for most use cases.

Project Dojo, Tesla’s Supercomputer

Dojo is the name of the neural network training system. Like a training Dojo.

Given all the data and simulations required, there is a demand for speed and capacity in AI neural network training. This is where Dojo comes in.


Currently, it is difficult to scale up bandwidth and reduce latencies, because processors have not been traditionally designed for training neural nets.

This is why Tesla invented the DPU.

DPU – Dojo processing unit. Whereas CPUs and GPUs are not designed to train neural networks, the DPU is designed to train neural networks.

The goal is to achieve the best possible AI training performance, supporting larger complex models while being power efficient and cost effective. Elon said it will be available next year.

This effectively enhances the AI software system, improving FSD.

Dojo leverages a distributed compute architecture.

It is apparently capable of an exaFLOP, which mean is can do a super high number of calculations per second, way more than your average computer. It is a supercomputer, after all…

Tesla will also make Dojo available to other companies that want to train their own neural networks, effectively building a platform for improving neural networks. This feels like an optimum opportunity to apply the “as-a-service” business model to the world of artificial intelligence and neural network training. By licensing out the use of Dojo, Tesla may be able to create yet another revenue stream for the company.

Thay have reportedly innovated in these chips in a way that means there are no roadblocks to extremely high bandwidth.

The software stack is completely vertically integrated. They build everything in house.

Source: Tesla

As the Dojo computer and neural network data sets improve the neural network, it is likely that the company will deploy the improved brain-like software upgrades via their over-the-air software updates.

Hardware and Computer Chips

One of the biggest goals is minimize latency, and maximize frame rate. These metrics may be familiar to you if you are involved in video games & graphics.

There is a computer in the car that runs the neural network that has been trained by the massive data sets discussed above.

Allegedly, the computer chip for Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system are produced by Samsung. [1]

The importance of computer chips to Tesla cannot be overstated. Various computer chips are used in all areas of the vehicle – even in the typically non-tech intensive parts of a car: computerized airbags, seat belts, doors and door handles, etc.

Given the reliance on them, the computer chip and semiconductor shortage is an issue across the globe is certainly a hurdle to resolve. [1]

Tesla Bot

Tesla Bot – known endearingly by Elon as “Optimus subprime” – a 5 foot 8 inch, 125 pound humanoid robot.

Given that the Tesla car is already essentially a robot, the Tesla Bot will simply use all the same technologies, in a device with a shape like that of a human.

r/teslainvestorsclub - Tesla Robot Screenshot
source: Tesla

It will make use of all the same tools that Tesla has in the car… such as 8 cameras, FSD computer, etc.

Elon was unfortunately reluctant to share any specific use cases, other than stating vaguely that it will do boring, repetitive, and dangerous tasks that humans do not want to do.

There are still many unknowns. Will the Tesla Bot have features similar to Siri or Amazon Alexa / Echo?

In addition to being a large automaker, Tesla is showing that they are very much a robotics, artificial intelligence, and software company.

Disclaimer: TSLA shareholder

Sources and references

  1. Criticism of Tesla (wikipedia article)
  2. Tesla.com AI day

Get the Future of Technology letter each month. Sign up below.

Success! You're on the list.

Tesla Accelerates Sustainable Energy

How will Tesla enable sustainable transportation?

disclaimer: written by a TSLA shareholder. Opinion. Not investment advice. Do your own research. All information here comes from publicly available sources or is speculation / guessing. Please fact check this blog post. (going overboard on the disclaimer after a particularly funny reddit comment).

Tesla has distinguished themselves as a company that builds both software as well as physical products and hardware.

One of the few companies whose mission appears to be sustainability over profit, they continue to innovate and create the best technology, forcing other players in the market to try to keep up.

Tesla’s Big Goals:

Tesla’s number one mission is to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy. Tesla is progressing in a few main areas to achieve this goal:

  1. produce more affordable electric vehicles
  2. build systems for energy storage
  3. be the best at manufacturing

The CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, has stated how he believes “you have to have a goal”. Following his earlier statement, Elon kept his word – the company’s goals were concisely outlined during the Tesla battery day event this past September.

Get the Future of Technology letter each month. Sign up below.

Success! You're on the list.

Goal 1: Tesla building Affordable Electric Vehicles

Today, less than 1% of the cars on earth (the “global fleet”) are electric. To increase this, Tesla will build a car that anyone can afford. Tesla has announced plans to build a $25,000 electric car.

With what started as a luxury, high-end car, Tesla is working towards reaching economies of scale to move towards high volume production of a car for the mass market.

Once Tesla reaches full-scale manufacturing and production, Tesla wants to produce and sell 20 million cars per year, enough to replace 1% of the gasoline cars with electric vehicles.

To achieve these numbers, Tesla must increase production of their cars by 40X compared to their 2020 manufacturing numbers.

The center controls are completely touch-screen. source: Tesla

Elon has hypothesized that internal combustion engine industry WILL NOT EXIST in the future, aside from perhaps in museums and hobbyists.

Autonomy & self-driving cars:

Creating self-driving cars is not directly related to reducing carbon emissions, yet it does provide a few solutions that will make buying a Tesla an extremely attractive purchase:

  1. Safety. Autopilot, designed to avoid collisions, has the potential to save the lives of at least 40,000 people per year that die in automobile fatalities. With traditional automobiles, accident probability is 2.1 collisions per million miles. With Tesla autopilot, the probability is 0.3 collisions per million miles.
  2. Entertainment will be important in the car once human attention is no longer just being used to drive. This could include video games (the vehicles already have a number of games available), socialization, reading, working, etc.

It is hard to say just how valuable autonomy is to each customer, but the parameters are as follows: Since autonomy is valuable to cars at an individual level, the value of autonomy for Tesla = value of each car * value of autonomy per vehicle.

Full-self-driving technology BETA version feels like it is close to being released to the market after seeing a few of the CEO’s recent tweets on the subject.

source: Twitter

If the FSV features help the company sell more cars, then the company is that much closer to achieving its mission of an automobile economy based on sustainable energy.

Goal 2: Energy Storage – Tesla Batteries, etc.

To be truly sustainable, energy must be accessible and affordable to everyone. Tesla plans to make vehicles and grid batteries that cost less. This includes reducing the cost of energy per kilowatt hour by one half.

Tesla is working to change the trajectory of the curve of cost per kilowatt hour of energy, pushing the cost lower, shown as the red line. source: Tesla Battery day.

At Tesla battery day, the heads of the company mentioned that reducing the cost per kilowatt hour of batteries is not happening fast enough. This was demonstrated by showing the curve of cost per kilowatt hour of batteries and the slow rate of improvement. Its flattening out, as shown in the photo above.

Battery design:

Tesla is al re-engineering the battery cell design, manufacturing, and production processes to create more affordable cells.

Tab-less batteries. source: Tesla Battery Day
  • Tesla batteries are cylindrical, and newer versions are larger (bigger cylinder cells cost less)
  • Tab length in batteries: older batteries had tabs located at anode and cathode ends, which added to the distance an electron has to travel through a battery. Tesla got rid of tabs, so the electron only has to travel a shorter distance, making them more efficient.
  • Battery filler is not only flame retardant, and it is a structural adhesive. Glues cells to the top and bottom of the sheet.
  • Battery cells are load-bearing, made of steel, dual-purpose as the structure of the car itself. (see below)
The image shows how larger battery cells (blue cylinders) in the bottom image are more efficiently packed into the car. Older design at the top has a large amount of wasted space, shown in red. source: Tesla Battery Day
  • Anode: Tesla uses silicon instead of graphite (graphite is carbon based) for the anode. Silicon is the 2nd most abundant element on Earth, present in Earth’s crust as silicon dioxide, commonly known as sand). Stores 9x more lithium than graphite. Problem with silicon is that it expands in the cells. They use raw metallurgical silicon and design batteries to be able account for expansion.
  • Cathode: the cathode holds the lithium and retains its structure. Nickel is the cheapest and has the highest energy density, but Nickel presents challenges with chemical stability. Cobalt is more expensive, yet more stable than Nickel. For the most energy intensive batteries (like the semi-truck or the cyber-truck) they will use full nickel. The goal is maximizing nickel and gradually removing cobalt from battery manufacturing. The company has added coatings and dopants to stabilize nickel in the batteries. Cathode materials are purchased and priced based on the London metal exchange (LME).
  • Lithium: lithium is plentiful in the US, Tesla already has access to enough for every car (once they are building 20M+ per year). The company mines clay containing lithium in areas of the US where the ground has high concentrations. They extract the lithium via an environmentally friendly process involving table salt NaCl. After mixing it with salt and water, the lithium is extracted because lithium bonds extremely strongly to Cl-. The lithium effectively knocks off the sodium atoms, and we are left with LiCl salt, which the company can use for their battery manufacturing.
  • The company will eventually recycle materials in the used batteries to make new batteries.

Goal 3: Manufacturing

In addition to the number one goal of accelerating the adoption of sustainable energy, Tesla wants to be the best at manufacturing. Elon stated Tesla needs to be “better than anyone at manufacturing”. The company has created a vertically-integrated car from the ground up. They build everything in house, outsourcing little of the process.

The remarkable thing being built by Tesla is actually not the car, but how. The way the company built the car, with heavily automated robotic factories is impressive.

Tesla is building 4 types of products for consumers:

  • Energy generation (solar panels / solar roof)
  • Energy storage (Tesla Powercell) – customers want the freedom to charge at home. The Tesla Powercell product allows people to do so.
  • Electric vehicles (cars and trucks)
  • Automated factories. The company has engineered machines to build the car, supporting the creation of each product. While these three products are very much in the foreground, the importance of the robotic factory in the background has given Tesla a wide competitive advantage that will be extremely difficult to copy.


  • Sustainable factories include car factories built with solar.
  • Factory close to consumers (on each continent) shortens the supply chain, quicker delivery to customers. Factory in Fremont California, Nevada, Austin TX, Berlin, Shanghai China.
    • Tesla is the only American car company with manufacturing facilities in China.
  • Largest casting machine ever to make the front and rear casting in one piece.
source: Tesla Battery Day


The ability to do more with less is an important strategy in engineering for elegance.

The company focuses more on metrics within the context of product improvements and manufacturing than purely financial areas. As of Battery day, the company reported:

  • Reducing number of parts in the car: now 370 fewer parts.
  • Reducing floorspace required in the factory by 35%.
    • Ensuring each cubic meter of the factory floor does useful work.
  • Stop using cobalt in batteries, mainly use nickel now.
  • Materials engineering the frame of the car: Developed their own high-strength casting alloy of aluminum that does not require coating or heat treatment. (Heat treatment historically causes alloys to lose shape)
  • Shortening the supply chain for resources: Reducing miles traveled by materials that end up in cathode by 80%.
  • 10% mass reduction in the car.
  • 14% range increase
  • “Electric energy costs are half those of diesel. With fewer systems to maintain, the Tesla Semi provides $200,000+ in fuel savings and a two-year payback period.” – Tesla.com
Tesla Semi-truck rendering source: Tesla

Get the Future of Technology letter each month. Sign up below.

Success! You're on the list.


  1. Tesla Battery Day presentation Deck: https://tesla-share.thron.com/content/?id=96ea71cf-8fda-4648-a62c-753af436c3b6&pkey=S1dbei4
  2. http://www.ev-volumes.com/
  3. IHS
  4. OICA
  5. https://www.tesla.com/blog/secret-tesla-motors-master-plan-just-between-you-and-me
  6. https://www.tesla.com/blog/master-plan-part-deux
  7. Tesla website
  8. TSLA 10k / annual report
  9. twitter