Tesla CEO Elon Musk will reveal details regarding the company’s new Full Self Driving tech at today’s Autonomy Investor Day seminar, which is getting underway now. The Silicon Valley company’s plan to detail its driverless tech comes amidst growing questions about global demand for Tesla’s electric vehicles, the ongoing health of its stock and the stability of the company’s leadership — Musk included. In other words, this promises to be a hugely important event in the history of the high-profile automaker.
Even if you’re not an investor or can’t make it to the company’s Palo Alto headquarters for Investor Day, fear not: Tesla has set up an official livestream for the webcast of the proceedings, and you can tune in now. All you have to do is click on the YouTube livestream embed below to watch. The event was slated to start at 11 a.m. PT (2 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. UK), but the automaker started late, so you’re not too late to tune in.
If you prefer, you can also set your browser to the automaker’s official livestream here.
Back on April 3, Tesla first announced plans to host Autonomy Investor Day would take place on Friday, April 19, but it subsequently moved the date to Monday, April 22, “based on investor feedback.”
According to Tesla’s initial press announcement, the company “is making significant progress in the development of its autonomous driving software and hardware, including our FSD computer, which is currently in production and which will enable full-self driving via future over-the-air software updates.” On April 15, Musk upped the ante by tweeting, “Buying a car in 2019 that can’t upgrade to full self-driving is like buying a horse instead of a car in 1919.”
Tesla says it plans to take attending investors on test drives to experience its latest iteration of Autopilot, including demonstrating features and functions that remain the subject of ongoing development.
Tesla — and Elon Musk in particular — have been under fire for promising full autonomous drive technology at a time when other automakers and suppliers seem to be backing away from ambitious timetables, lengthening their production horizons to account for growing technological challenges.
For its part, Tesla’s self-titled Full Self Driving hardware doesn’t seem to include core technologies that virtually every other company racing towards driverless cars has deemed necessary for safe, reliable operation.
Tesla’s Full Self Driving suite is expected to rely on a network of cameras, as well as forward-facing radar and ultrasonic sensors to keep tabs on a vehicle’s immediate surroundings. Every other major player in this growing space, including automakers like Audi and tech companies like Mobileye and Waymo are developing prototypes that employ lidar sensors (laser radar), as well as hyper-detailed three-dimensional mapping. Tesla has not shown such technologies, and Musk has been dismissive of lidar technology in the past. Instead, Tesla has unveiled a major step forward in the form of a new AI chipset developed in-house to power its FSD tech.
Leaving out the sensors that Tesla plans to use to facilitate self-driving, its hardware solution seems incredibly robust. The Full Self-Driving (FSD) computer package utilizes redundant, custom-designed chips to deal with the massive amounts of information provided by the rest of the hardware package. It is designed from the ground up by Tesla to do this while using a minimal amount of power (under 100 watts in this case) to reduce the system’s impact on overall vehicle range.
The current generation of FSD hardware has been finished for approximately two years, and the next generation of hardware — according to Musk — is due out in another two years. Musk predicts that the next generation of FSD hardware will be approximately three times as powerful as the current generation. Currently, all new Teslas being built come standard with this FSD computer hardware installed, and many older vehicles can have it retrofitted with minimal effort.
Neural network and software
Tesla’s Navigate On Autopilot hardware that’s currently available on its vehicles is already capable of fully automatic lane changes and finding its way onto and off of freeway interchanges. The system has not been without its critics, and there have been a number of high-profile accidents that some have attributed to blind spots in the technology’s makeup. Despite those incidents, there’s no denying that Autopilot offers more functionality in more environments than competing systems currently available from other automakers (many of whom have been more conservative in deploying new features for safety reasons).
One of the main driving factors that Tesla is relying on to move its self-driving tech forward is its neural network. The Tesla neural network pulls images and video from Tesla vehicles in the real world and through a combination of human annotation and predictive behavior, it learns how to read the road efficiently and accurately. It also uses the vehicle’s radar sensors to help it determine object depth and distance without needing to use a stereoscopic camera setup.
Andrej Karpathy, Tesla’s head of AI also expounded on Musk’s statements that lidar is a fool’s errand and a crutch. He explained that the Tesla system uses computer vision because the world’s roads are built on vision, and using a neural network to read images offers dramatically more information for a given object than can lidar.
Elon Musk portended during the presentation that, “Anyone relying on lidar is doomed.”
While the Autonomy Investor Day event is set to center on self-driving tech, we wouldn’t be surprised if Elon Musk or other Tesla officials let slip some details regarding future products like the Model Y, Semi or Roadster, too. Updates for plans on an autonomous ride-hailing network could also figure into the proceedings.
Whether you’re a Tesla bull, bear, believer or cynic, Autonomy Investor Day promises to be a must-watch event.
Originally published April 22, 6:39 a.m. PT.