Tesla CEO Elon Musk has announced that the automaker has been “stealth” developing a custom-built AI chip for the past two or three years.
The Tesla computer, or “Hardware 3”, is a Tesla-built piece of hardware that will eventually be placed into the Model S, X, and 3. Hardware 3 will be able to advance those car’s autonomous driving abilities.
Until now, Tesla has been utilizing Nvidia’s Drive platform, but by using their own chips, Tesla will gain more control over their product. By building the chips in-house, Tesla has stated that it will be more efficient and they can focus on their own needs. They can regularly be accessing the product and adjusting it to fit their changing needs.
“We had the benefit […] of knowing what our neural networks look like, and what they’ll look like in the future,” said Pete Bannon, director of the Hardware 3 project.
“The key,” said Elon “is to be able to run the neural network at a fundamental, bare metal level. You have to do these calculations in the circuit itself, not in some sort of emulation mode, which is how a GPU or CPU would operate. You want to do a massive amount of [calculations] with the memory right there.”
According to Elon, the computer vision software created by Tesla will be able to handle 2000 frames per second. The software running on Nvidia’s hardware was only able to handle about 200 frames per second.
The update is expected to be released next year. Because Tesla is replacing the chips in the existing cars, Elon said, “We made it easy to switch out the computer, and that’s all that needs to be done. You take out one computer, and plug in the next. All the connectors are compatible.”