Elon Musk makes case for eschewing LIDAR as Tesla reports latest results

Elon Musk has said that LIDAR is a ‘crutch’ and affirmed that Tesla will not be planning to use the system going forward.

LIDAR, which stands for ‘light detection and ranging’, helps measure distance to a target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light, and measuring the reflected pulses. While other companies are using the technology – it is a part of the alleged claims in the current Uber versus Waymo court case, for instance – Tesla will continue to only use cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors to create autonomous vehicles.

Musk was responding to an analyst question on an earnings call, asking whether competitors are missing anything in their software stack that enabled Tesla to not use LIDAR, and whether regulation would come into place regarding use of the technology.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that the road system is geared towards passive optical [image recognition],” said Musk, as transcribed by Seeking Alpha. “We have to solve passive optical image recognition extremely well in order to be able to drive in any given environment and the changing environment.

“At the point at which you have solved it extremely well, what is the point in having optical – meaning LIDAR – which cannot read signs,” he added. “In my view, it is a crutch that will drive companies to a local maximum that they will find very difficult to get out of.”

Regarding what the competition are doing, Musk added: “I find it quite puzzling that companies would choose to do an active proton system in the wrong wavelength. They’re going to have a whole bunch of expensive equipment, most of which makes the car expensive, ugly and unnecessary… and I think they will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.”

The company issued its fourth quarter and full year update for 2017, with revenue of $ 11.8 billion (£8.5bn) for 2017, up 55% year over year from organic growth. Tesla added that it expected 2018 revenue growth to ‘significantly exceed’ 2017 growth.

The focus for a lot of the message was on the long-awaited Model 3 – in more ways than one. Tesla delivered 1,542 Model 3 vehicles in the final quarter of 2017, with a Business Insider article saying that ‘production is on track, but it’s still a complete mess.’

“The launch of Model 3 [the most recent model] is what Tesla had been building towards from day one,” the company said. “We incorporated all the learnings from the development and production of Roadster, Model S, and Model X to create the world’s first mass market electric vehicle that is priced on par with its gasoline-powered equivalents – even without incentives.

“Now we are ramping up production significantly, and as we look ahead in 2018, we are on the cusp of a step change in the world’s transition to sustainability.”

Not everyone believes in the work Tesla is doing, however. A recent study from Navigant Research assessed the better part of 20 companies developing automated driving systems and put Tesla at the bottom of the pile.

You can read the full Tesla financial report here.

Postscript: While the vast majority of the focus was on Tesla, analysts could not resist comment on Musk’s successful SpaceX launch earlier this week. One told Musk the launch was ‘probably the sickest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.’

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“AI most likely cause of WW3” says Elon Musk

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Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has made another apprehensive comment on the future of artificial intelligence development, saying the country with “[artificial intelligence] superiority most likely cause of WW3” on Twitter.

Musk, the most prominent critic of AI development, was responding to a comment by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said the nation that leads in AI will be “leader of the world.”

The comment is just the latest from Musk, who has taken to Twitter previously to call on governments to regulate AI and to say AI is vastly more risky than the situation in North Korea. In past comments, Musk has likened AI development to “summoning the demon” and called it an existential threat.

His heavy criticism of the development has led him into arguments with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, an avid AI enthusiast. Several AI experts have also denounced Musk’s comments.

AI a “national concern”

Almost all the leaders on the global stage have started to invest in research and development of AI for national means, in some way. The Chinese government recently said it wants to be a leader in AI by 2030 and will invest heavily in companies working on the technology.

See Also: In an AI-powered world, what are potential jobs of the future?

Musk recently added his name to alongside 100 others asking for the United Nations to actively regulate autonomous weapons development, before it is deployed on the battlefield.

Even with all the criticism, Musk has founded an AI research firm, called OpenAI. The startup recently showed its technical prowess in the online strategy game DoTA 2. Musk has also founded Neuralink, which is reportedly developing brain-computer interfaces.

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Elon Musk says Mark Zuckerberg’s AI understanding is “limited”

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It is not often the heads of two major companies blast each other in public, so Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s artificial intelligence warnings “pretty irresponsible” on a Facebook Live broadcast was seen as a big deal.

Musk intensified the drama in response to a tweet, which said Zuckerberg’s “understanding of the subject is limited.” This is despite Facebook working heavily on AI and integrating narrow AI into some of its programs, and Zuckerberg building a home automation system.

“I have pretty strong opinions on this. I am optimistic. And I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I just, I don’t understand it,” said Zuckerberg. “It’s really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible. Because in the next five to ten years, AI is going to deliver so many improvements in the quality of our lives.”

AI will lead to faster cures for diseases, better match of drugs to the patient, self-driving cars, said Zuckerberg. He also said all technology could be used for good or bad, although Elon Musk has said previously that AI is different to other technologies, as it is a “fundamental existential risk to humanity,” whereas planes, trucks, and computers are not.

See Also: Forget Elon Musk’s ban — let’s put our energy into building safe AI

In the most recent interview on the subject, Musk called for proactive regulation for AI, rather than reactive, as is the norm. He called for a collective halt of general purpose AI development, at least until researchers and governments can set the rules and limitations.

Musk is quite alone in this battle against AI, with Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon all forging ahead with their own research and development. There is also the argument that if not developed in the U.S., China will certainly take the lead in AI development.

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Elon Musk calls on governments to start regulating AI

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Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has called on governments to proactively regulate artificial intelligence, before we arrive at the general purpose AI stage.

Musk, who also founded non-profit AI research company OpenAI, has stated before his view that AI is an existential threat to humanity and he repeated the same warnings at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting on Saturday.

See Also: Tesla to build world’s largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia

“I have exposure to the most cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned about it,” said Musk. “I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down to the street killing people they don’t know how to react, because it seems so ethereal.”

To solve this issue, Musk said governments should not reactively regulate, as they normally do. “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation, rather than reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in regulation, it’s too late.”

Musk is not talking about narrow AI, built for a singular purpose, but about AI that can process thousands of tasks and work similar to a human brain. Google, DeepMind (owned by Google), Microsoft, and a few others are working on this type of intelligence.

Robotics will, according to Musk, cause “a lot of job disruption,” because “robots will be able to do everything better than us.”

Musk did not say what the regulatory agency if set up, should do to tackle the problem of AI, other than to stall until companies can show it is safe. He has previously compared work on artificial intelligence to “summoning the demon,” which would suggest he wants research and development of general intelligence killed off.

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