Tesla is finally ‘letting the cat out of the bag’ when it comes to its new custom-built chip for the next generation Autopilot.
The automaker claims that it now has the ‘world’s most advanced computer for autonomous driving’ that will be released in an upgrade to current owners next year.
Back in 2016, we first exclusively reported on Tesla quietly hiring legendary chip architect Jim Keller from AMD and we were fairly excited by the implications of Tesla hiring such an important chip architect.
At the time, we speculated that Tesla could be looking into making its own silicon at some point – speculation that was further reinforced after Keller’s hiring was followed by a team of chip architects and executives from AMD also joining Tesla.
Finally, our suspicions were confirmed two years later when Elon Musk confirmed that Tesla is working on its own AI chip.
Keller has since left Tesla, but the team is now led by Pete Bannon, who were amongst the other chip architects hired by Tesla over 2 years ago.
During Tesla’s earnings call today, Bannon confirmed that they have now produced the chip and have it working in test vehicles on the road.
Bannon said that the new chip will be released in a new ‘hardware 3’ suite for Autopilot which will take the form of a new computer that will replace the existing computer in the vehicles with Autopilot hardware 2.0 and 2.5, which have been in production since October 2016.
Musk added that he believes that the new computer that they’ve developed is an order of magnitude better than what they can buy now.
The computer in the Autopilot 2.0 hardware suite is powered by Nvidia GPUs. Musk says that it is capable of processing 200 frames per second and Tesla’s hardware 3 will be able to handle 2,000 frames per second with redundancy.
He explained that they achieved that by building the chip from the ground up to act as a ‘neural network accelerator’ based on the neural net that Tesla’s AI and vision team have been building.
Bannon and Musk reiterated that the new computer will be offered as an upgrade to current Autopilot 2.0 (and up) owners by simply swapping the current computer.
Earlier this year, we took a close look at the current computer in Model S, Model X, and Model 3 with Autopilot 2.5.
Tesla has previously said that this upgrade will be offered for free since Tesla has been advertising Autopilot 2.0 cars as being fully autonomous ready and therefore, any upgrade to make it fully autonomous should be free.
Bannon said the upgrade is planned for next year.
In the meantime, Tesla is still planning to improve Autopilot on the current hardware with software version 9 coming in ‘4 weeks’.
Featured Image: Look inside Tesla’s onboard Nvidia supercomputer for self-driving by Kyle Day