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Person dressed up as Tesla Bot showing some dance moves

Tesla unveiled its own AI chip and — surprise! — plans for a humanoid robot.

What’s new: At Tesla’s AI Day promotional event, the company offered a first look at an upcoming self-driving computer powered by custom AI chips. To make sure the event got headlines, CEO Elon Musk teased a forthcoming android.
Chips and bots: Company executives explained how the company trains models, labels data, and meets various AI challenges. Then they dove into what’s ahead:

  • Tesla claims that Dojo will process computer vision data four times faster than existing systems, enabling the company to bring its self-driving system to full autonomy. The first Dojo cluster will be running by next year.
  • The computer is based on D1, an AI training chip designed in-house. Three thousand D1s can be ganged together to deliver more processing power and network bandwidth than typical training rigs.
  • The same technology that undergirds Tesla’s cars will drive the forthcoming Tesla Bot, which is intended to perform mundane tasks like grocery shopping or assembly-line work. Its design spec calls for 45-pound carrying capacity, “human-level hands,” and a top speed of 5 miles per hour (so humans can outrun it).
  • Rather than showing a working prototype, Musk presented a human dancing in a bodysuit. He said a prototype would be ready next year. (Musk frequently exaggerates Tesla’s capabilities.)

Behind the news: Tesla’s Autopilot system has recently come under government scrutiny. Last week, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into 11 incidents in which Tesla vehicles using Autopilot collided with parked emergency vehicles. If the agency finds Autopilot at fault, it could require the company to change or recall its technology.
Why it matters: Tesla’s promise of full self-driving capability was premature, but Dojo’s muscled-up computing power could bring it substantially closer. As for the Tesla Bot, we’re not holding our breath.

We’re thinking: Tesla’s genuine achievements — the innovative electric car, charging infrastructure, driver-assistance capabilities — may be overshadowed by stunts like the dancer in the bodysuit. History will decide whether Elon Musk is remembered as a genius at engineering or marketing.


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