He told assorted NIPS throngs that he "wanted to make it clear that Tesla is serious about AI, both on the software and hardware fronts. We are developing custom AI hardware chips. Custom chips could ultimately lead to safer self-driving cars".
Tesla has been rumoured to be building its own AI chips before, and in September was thought to have 50 people working on the project. Among these were industry veteran Jim Keller, who previously worked at AMD and Apple, and who joined Tesla in January 2016 as vice president of Autopilot Hardware Engineering.
Specialised chips could help give Tesla an edge in the self-driving race. Currently, the company uses Nvidia’s graphics cards to power its self-driving functionality, but more customised hardware could improve performance — allowing for faster calculations and greater safety.
AI chips might allow Tesla to achieve its goal of full autonomy that little bit faster. At the same NIPS talk yesterday, Musk repeated his ambitious timeline of two years to get to Level 5 self-driving - the point at which humans can go to sleep in the back seat. He predicted, according to tweets by AI researcher Stephen Merity, that AI might become exponentially smarter than humans in just five to ten years.