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Elon Musk announces the next generation of self-driving Tesla chips

It’s the best chip in the world… objectively.

tesla self-driving chip
Image: Tesla

Yesterday, at the company’s Autonomy Day, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the Tesla computer, a self-designed custom chip that’s going to be the brains of all Tesla vehicles going forward. That breaks the dependence on Nvidia for its AI chips that used to power the Full Self-Driving capability of Tesla’s advanced Autopilot features.

The new chip has been custom-designed to eventually enable full self-driving capabilities. Musk said that the design for the just-released chip was finalized about “one and a half, two years ago,” with Tesla already halfway through the design process for its eventual replacement.

When asked about the focus of the next-generational chip, Musk pulled a number out of thin air, saying it will be “three times better” than the just-released chip, although an off-stage minder was trying hard to get Musk to say “safety,” probably to keep the investors happy.

Image: Tesla

Okay, now let me say this for those in the back

Just because the chip is designed to allow full self-driving, it doesn’t mean that Teslas equipped with it will automatically have full self-driving. What Tesla currently calls “Full Self-Driving” is actually “Level 2,” a feature level designation by SAE that means that the included driver assistance system is more advanced than most other vehicles. The software running on the new chips needs to meet Level 4 specifications to get to true self-driving. Elon estimates that the Tesla Autopilot software will have improved enough by the middle of 2020 that drivers will no longer need to pay attention to the road.

Musk even has a higher goal – Level 5, which means that those vehicles will be capable of driving themselves under all possible conditions, anywhere on the planet, without needing human intervention. I assume it’s only a matter of time before a Jeep-like Tesla is announced, as none of the current range can really go off-road.

All Model S and Model X vehicles being produced by Tesla switched to the new chip about a month ago, with the Model 3 range doing the switch about 10 days ago.

With Musk objectively calling the chip “the best chip in the world,” I can’t wait for someone to reverse-engineer it and call their version “This is not the best chip in the world – this is a tribute.”

What do you think? Is the future of electric, self-driving cars bright? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience at KnowTechie, SlashGear and XDA Developers. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere, with particular focus in gadgetry and handheld gaming. Shoot him an email at joe@knowtechie.com.

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