Elon Musk: Tesla Autopilot | Artificial Intelligence (AI) Podcast


– The following is a
conversation with Elon Musk. He’s the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and a co-founder of
several other companies. This conversation is part of the Artificial Intelligence Podcast. This series includes leading researchers in academia and industry, including CEOs and CTOs of automotive, robotics, AI and technology companies. This conversation
happened after the release of the paper from our group at MIT on driver functional vigilance during use of Tesla’s Autopilot. The Tesla team reached out to me offering a podcast
conversation with Mr. Musk. I accepted with full control
of questions I could ask and the choice of what
is released publicly. I ended up editing out
nothing of substance. I’ve never spoken with Elon
before this conversation, publicly or privately. Neither he nor his
companies have any influence on my opinion, nor on
the rigor and integrity of the scientific method that I practice in my position at MIT. Tesla has never financially
supported my research and I’ve never owned a Tesla vehicle, and I’ve never owned Tesla stock. This podcast is not a scientific paper, it is a conversation. I respect Elon as I do all other leaders and engineers I’ve spoken with. We agree on some things
and disagree on others. My goal, as always with
these conversations, is to understand the way
the guest sees the world. One particular point of
disagreement in this conversation was the extent to which
camera-based driver monitoring will improve outcomes and for how long it will remain relevant
for AI-assisted driving. As someone who works
on and is fascinated by human-centered artificial intelligence, I believe that, if implemented
and integrated effectively, camera-based driver monitoring
is likely to be of benefit in both the short term and the long term. In contrast, Elon and Tesla’s focus is on the improvement of Autopilot such that its statistical safety benefits override any concern for
human behavior and psychology. Elon and I may not agree on everything, but I deeply respect the
engineering and innovation behind the efforts that he leads. My goal here is to catalyze a rigorous, nuanced and objective discussion in industry and academia
on AI-assisted driving, one that ultimately makes
for a safer and better world. And now, here’s my
conversation with Elon Musk. What was the vision, the dream, of Autopilot in the beginning? The big picture system level
when it was first conceived and started being installed in 2014, the hardware in the cars? What was the vision, the dream? – I wouldn’t characterize
it as a vision or dream, it’s simply that there are
obviously two massive revolutions in the automobile industry. One is the transition to electrification, and then the other is autonomy. And it became obvious to
me that, in the future, any car that does not have autonomy would be about as useful as a horse. Which is not to say that there’s no use, it’s just rare, and
somewhat idiosyncratic, if somebody has a horse at this point. It’s just obvious that cars will drive themselves completely, it’s just a question of time. And if we did not participate
in the autonomy revolution, then our cars would not
be useful to people, relative to cars that are autonomous. I mean, an autonomous
car is arguably worth five to 10 times more than a
car which is not autonomous. – In the long term. – Depends what you mean by long term but, let’s say at least for
the next five years, perhaps 10 years. – So there are a lot of very
interesting design choices with Autopilot early on. First is showing on
the instrument cluster, or in the Model 3 and
the center stack display, what the combined sensor suite sees. What was the thinking behind that choice? Was there a debate, what was the process? – The whole point of the display is to provide a health check on the vehicle’s perception of reality. So the vehicle’s taking in information from a bunch of sensors,
primarily cameras, but also radar and
ultrasonics, GPS and so forth. And then, that information
is then rendered into vector space with a bunch of objects, with properties like lane lines and traffic lights and other cars. And then, in vector
space, that is re-rendered onto a display so you can confirm whether the car knows what’s going on or not, by looking out the window. – Right, I think that’s an
extremely powerful thing for people to get an understanding, sort of become one with the system and understanding what
the system is capable of. Now, have you considered showing more? So if we look at the computer vision, like road segmentation, lane detection, vehicle detection, object
detection, underlying the system, there is at the edges, some uncertainty. Have you considered revealing the parts that the uncertainty in
the system, the sort of– – Probabilities associated with say, image recognition or something like that? – Yeah, so right now, it shows
the vehicles in the vicinity, a very clean crisp image,
and people do confirm that there’s a car in front of me and the system sees there’s
a car in front of me, but to help people build an intuition of what computer vision is, by showing some of the uncertainty. – Well, in my car I always look
at this with the debug view. And there’s two debug views. One is augmented vision,
which I’m sure you’ve seen, where it’s basically we
draw boxes and labels around objects that are recognized. And then there’s we what
call the visualizer, which is basically vector
space representation, summing up the input from all sensors. That does not show any pictures, which basically shows the car’s view of the world in vector space. But I think this is very difficult for normal people to understand, they’re would not know what
thing they’re looking at. – So it’s almost an HMI challenge through the current things that are
being displayed is optimized for the general public understanding of what the system’s capable of. – If you have no idea how
computer vision works or anything, you can still look at the screen and see if the car knows what’s going on. And then if you’re a development engineer, or if you have the
development build like I do, then you can see all
the debug information. But this would just be like
total gibberish to most people. – What’s your view on how
to best distribute effort? So there’s three, I would
say, technical aspects of Autopilot that are really important. So it’s the underlying algorithms, like the neural network architecture, there’s the data that it’s trained on, and then there’s the hardware
development and maybe others. So, look, algorithm, data, hardware. You only have so much money,
only have so much time. What do you think is
the most important thing to allocate resources to? Or do you see it as
pretty evenly distributed between those three? – We automatically get
vast amounts of data because all of our cars have eight external facing cameras, and radar, and usually
12 ultrasonic sensors, GPS obviously, and IMU. And we’ve got about
400,000 cars on the road that have that level of data. Actually, I think you keep quite
close track of it actually. – Yes. – Yeah, so we’re approaching
half a million cars on the road that have the full sensor suite. I’m not sure how many
other cars on the road have this sensor suite, but I’d be surprised if
it’s more than 5,000, which means that we have
99% of all the data. – So there’s this huge inflow of data. – Absolutely, a massive inflow of data. And then it’s taken us about three years, but now we’ve finally developed our full self-driving computer, which can process an
order of magnitude as much as the NVIDIA system that we
currently have in the cars, and to use it, you unplug
the NVIDIA computer and plug the Tesla
computer in and that’s it. In fact, we still are exploring the boundaries of its capabilities. We’re able to run the
cameras at full frame-rate, full resolution, not even crop the images, and it’s still got headroom
even on one of the systems. The full self-driving computer
is really two computers, two systems on a chip,
that are fully redundant. So you could put a boat through basically any part of that
system and it still works. – The redundancy, are they
perfect copies of each other or– – Yeah. – Oh, so it’s purely for redundancy as opposed to an arguing
machine kind of architecture where they’re both making decisions, this is purely for redundancy. – Think of it more like it’s a twin-engine commercial aircraft. The system will operate best
if both systems are operating, but it’s capable of
operating safely on one. So, as it is right now, we can just run, we haven’t even hit
the edge of performance so there’s no need to actually distribute functionality across both SOCs. We can actually just run a
full duplicate on each one. – So you haven’t really explored or hit the limit of the system. – [Elon] No not yet, the limit, no. – So the magic of deep learning is that it gets better with data. You said there’s a huge inflow of data, but the thing about driving,
– Yeah. – the really valuable data to
learn from is the edge cases. I’ve heard you talk somewhere
about Autopilot disengagements being an important moment of time to use. Is there other edge cases or perhaps can you speak
to those edge cases, what aspects of them might be valuable, or if you have other ideas, how to discover more and more and more edge cases in driving? – Well there’s a lot of
things that are learnt. There are certainly edge cases where, say somebody’s on Autopilot
and they take over, and then that’s a trigger
that goes out to our system and says, okay, did they
take over for convenience, or did they take over
because the Autopilot wasn’t working properly? There’s also, let’s say
we’re trying to figure out, what is the optimal spline for
traversing an intersection. Then the ones where there
are no interventions are the right ones. So you then you say, okay,
when it looks like this, do the following. And then you get the optimal spline for navigating a complex intersection. – So there’s kind of the common case, So you’re trying to capture
a huge amount of samples of a particular intersection
when things went right, and then there’s the edge case where, as you said, not for convenience, but something didn’t go exactly right. – So if somebody started
manual control from Autopilot. And really, the way to look at this is view all input as error. If the user had to do
input, there’s something, all input is error. – That’s a powerful line
to think of it that way ’cause it may very well be error, but if you wanna exit the highway, or if it’s a navigation decision that Autopilot’s not
currently designed to do, then the driver takes
over, how do you know the difference?
– Yeah, that’s gonna change with Navigate on Autopilot,
which we’ve just released, and without stalk confirm. Assuming control in order
to do a lane change, or exit a freeway, or doing
a highway interchange, the vast majority of that will go away with the release that just went out. – Yeah, so that, I don’t
think people quite understand how big of a step that is. – Yeah, they don’t. If you drive the car then you do. – So you still have to keep your hands on the steering wheel currently when it does the automatic lane change. There’s these big leaps through
he development of Autopilot, through its history and, what stands out to you as the big leaps? I would say this one,
Navigate on Autopilot without having to confirm is a huge leap. – It is a huge leap.
– What are the– It also automatically overtakes slow cars. So it’s both navigation and
seeking the fastest lane. So it’ll overtake slow
cars and exit the freeway and take highway interchanges, and then we have traffic
light recognition, which introduced initially as a warning. I mean, on the development
version that I’m driving, the car fully stops and
goes at traffic lights. – So those are the steps, right? You’ve just mentioned some things that are an inkling of a
step towards full autonomy. What would you say are
the biggest technological roadblocks to full self-driving? – Actually, the full self-driving
computer that we just, the Tesla, what we call, FSD computer that’s now in production, so if you order any Model S or X, or any Model 3 that has the
full self-driving package, you’ll get the FSD computer. That’s important to have
enough base computation. Then refining the neural net
and the control software. All of that can just be provided
as an over-the-air update. The thing that’s really profound, and what I’ll be emphasizing
at the investor day that we’re having focused on autonomy, is that the car is
currently being produced, with the hard word
currently being produced, is capable of full self-driving. – But capable is an
interesting word because– – [Elon] The hardware is. – Yeah, the hardware. – And as we refine the software, the capabilities will
increase dramatically, and then the reliability
will increase dramatically, and then it will receive
regulatory approval. So essentially, buying a car today is an investment in the future. I think the most profound thing is that if you buy a Tesla today, I believe you’re buying
an appreciating asset, not a depreciating asset. – So that’s a really
important statement there because if hardware is capable enough, that’s the hard thing to upgrade usually.
– Yes, exactly. – Then the rest is a software problem– – Yes, software has no
marginal cost really. – But, what’s your intuition
on the software side? How hard are the remaining steps to get it to where the experience, not just the safety,
but the full experience is something that people would enjoy? – I think people it enjoy
it very much so on highways. It’s a total game changer
for quality of life, for using Tesla Autopilot on the highways. So it’s really just
extending that functionality to city streets, adding in
the traffic light recognition, navigating complex intersections, and then being able to navigate
complicated parking lots so the car can exit a parking
space and come and find you, even if it’s in a complete
maze of a parking lot. And, then it can just drop you off and find a parking spot, by itself. – Yeah, in terms of enjoyabilty,
and something that people would actually find a lotta use from, the parking lot, it’s rich of annoyance when you have to do it manually, so there’s a lot of benefit to be gained from automation there. So, let me start injecting the human into this discussion a little bit. So let’s talk about full autonomy, if you look at the current
level four vehicles being tested on row like Waymo and so on, they’re only technically autonomous, they’re really level two systems with just a different design philosophy, because there’s always a safety driver in almost all cases, and they’re monitoring the system.
– Right. – Do you see Tesla’s full
self-driving as still, for a time to come, requiring supervision of the human being. So its capabilities are
powerful enough to drive but nevertheless requires a human to still be supervising, just like a safety driver is in other
fully autonomous vehicles? – I think it will require
detecting hands on wheel for at least six months or
something like that from here. Really it’s a question of,
from a regulatory standpoint, how much safer than a person
does Autopilot need to be, for it to be okay to not monitor the car. And this is a debate that one can have, and then, but you need
a large amount of data, so that you can prove,
with high confidence, statistically speaking, that the car is dramatically safer than a person. And that adding in the person monitoring does not materially affect the safety. So it might need to be 200
or 300% safer than a person. – And how do you prove that? – Incidents per mile. – Incidents per mile.
– Yeah. – So crashes and fatalities– – Yeah, fatalities would be a factor, but there are just not enough fatalities to be statistically significant, at scale. But there are enough crashes, there are far more crashes
then there are fatalities. So you can assess what is
the probability of a crash. Then there’s another step
which is probability of injury. And probability of permanent injury, the probability of death. And all of those need to be
much better than a person, by at least, perhaps, 200%. – And you think there’s
the ability to have a healthy discourse with
the regulatory bodies on this topic? – I mean, there’s no
question that regulators paid a disproportionate amount of attention to that which generates press, this is just an objective fact. And it also generates a lot of press. So, in the United States there’s, I think, almost 40,000 automotive deaths per year. But if there are four in Tesla, they will probably receive
a thousand times more press than anyone else. – So the psychology of that
is actually fascinating, I don’t think we’ll have enough time to talk about that, but I
have to talk to you about the human side of things. So, myself and our team
at MIT recently released a paper on functional vigilance of drivers while using Autopilot. This is work we’ve been
doing since Autopilot was first released publicly,
over three years ago, collecting video of driver
faces and driver body. So I saw that you tweeted
a quote from the abstract, so I can at least guess
that you’ve glanced at it. – Yeah, I read it. – Can I talk you through what we found? – Sure. – Okay, it appears that in
the data that we’ve collected, that drivers are maintaining
functional vigilance such that, we’re looking at 18,000
disengagements from Autopilot, 18,900, and annotating were they able to take over control in a timely manner. So they were there,
present, looking at the road to take over control, okay. So this goes against
what many would predict from the body of literature
on vigilance with automation. Now the question is, do you think these results hold across
the broader population. So, ours is just a small subset. One of the criticism is that,
there’s a small minority of drivers that may be highly responsible, where their vigilance
decrement would increase with Autopilot use. – I think this is all
really gonna be swept, I mean, the system’s improving so much, so fast, that this is gonna
be a moot point very soon. Where vigilance is, if
something’s many times safer than a person, then adding a person does, the effect on safety is limited. And, in fact, it could be negative. – That’s really interesting,
so the fact that a human may, some percent of the population may exhibit a vigilance decrement, will not affect overall statistics, numbers on safety? – No, in fact, I think it will become, very, very quickly, maybe even
towards the end of this year, but I would say, I’d be
shocked if it’s not next year at the latest, that
having a human intervene will decrease safety. Decrease, like imagine
if you’re in an elevator. Now it used to be that there
were elevator operators. And you couldn’t go on
an elevator by yourself and work the lever to move between floors. And now nobody wants an elevator operator, because the automated elevator
that stops at the floors is much safer than the elevator operator. And in fact it would be quite dangerous to have someone with a lever that can move the elevator between floors. – So, that’s a really powerful statement, and a really interesting one, but I also have to ask
from a user experience and from a safety perspective, one of the passions for me algorithmically is camera-based detection
of just sensing the human, but detecting what the
driver’s looking at, cognitive load, body pose,
on the computer vision side that’s a fascinating problem. And there’s many in industry who believe you have to have camera-based
driver monitoring. Do you think there could be benefit gained from driver monitoring? – If you have a system that’s
at or below a human level of reliability, then driver
monitoring makes sense. But if your system is dramatically better, more reliable than a human,
then driver monitoring does not help much. And, like I said, if you’re in an elevator,
do you really want someone with a big
lever, some random person operating the elevator between floors? I wouldn’t trust that. I would rather have the buttons. – Okay, you’re optimistic
about the pace of improvement of the system, from what you’ve seen with the full self-driving car computer. – The rate of improvement is exponential. – So, one of the other very interesting design choices early on
that connects to this, is the operational design
domain of Autopilot. So, where Autopilot is
able to be turned on. So contrast another vehicle
system that we were studying is the Cadillac Super
Cruise system that’s, in terms of ODD, very constrained to particular kinds of highways, well mapped, tested,
but it’s much narrower than the ODD of Tesla vehicles. – It’s like ADD (both laugh). – Yeah, that’s good, that’s a good line. What was the design decision in that different philosophy of thinking, where there’s pros and cons. What we see with a wide ODD is Tesla drivers are able to explore more the limitations of the system, at least early on, and they understand, together with the
instrument cluster display, they start to understand
what are the capabilities, so that’s a benefit. The con is you’re letting drivers use it basically anywhere– – Anywhere that it can
detect lanes with confidence. – Lanes, was there a philosophy, design decisions that were challenging, that were being made there? Or from the very beginning
was that done on purpose, with intent? – Frankly it’s pretty crazy letting people drive a two-ton death machine manually. That’s crazy, like, in the
future will people be like, I can’t believe anyone
was just allowed to drive one of these two-ton death machines, and they just drive wherever they wanted. Just like elevators, you could just move that elevator with that
lever wherever you wanted, can stop it halfway
between floors if you want. It’s pretty crazy, so, it’s gonna seem like a
mad thing in the future that people were driving cars. – So I have a bunch of questions about the human psychology,
about behavior and so on– – That’s moot, it’s totally moot. – Because you have faith in the AI system, not faith but, both on the hardware side and the deep learning approach
of learning from data, will make it just far safer than humans. – Yeah, exactly. – Recently there were a few hackers, who tricked Autopilot to
act in unexpected ways for the adversarial examples. So we all know that neural network systems are very sensitive to minor disturbances, these adversarial examples, on input. Do you think it’s possible to defend against something like this, for the industry?
– Sure (both laugh), yeah. – Can you elaborate on the
confidence behind that answer? – A neural net is just basically a bunch of matrix math. But you have to be a very sophisticated, somebody who really
understands neural nets and basically reverse-engineer
how the matrix is being built, and then
create a little thing that’s just exactly causes the matrix math to be slightly off. But it’s very easy to
block that by having, what would basically negative recognition, it’s like if the system sees something that looks like a matrix hack, exclude it. It’s such a easy thing to do. – So learn both on the valid
data and the invalid data, so basically learn on
the adversarial examples to be able to exclude them. – Yeah, you like basically wanna both know what is a car and what
is definitely not a car. And you train for, this is a car, and this is definitely not a car. Those are two different things. People have no idea of neural nets really, They probably think neural nets involves, a fishing net or something (Lex laughs). – So, as you know, taking
a step beyond just Tesla and Autopilot, current
deep learning approaches still seem, in some ways, to be far from general
intelligence systems. Do you think the current approaches will take us to general intelligence, or do totally new ideas
need to be invented? – I think we’re missing a few key ideas for artificial general intelligence. But it’s gonna be upon us very quickly, and then we’ll need to
figure out what shall we do, if we even have that choice. It’s amazing how people
can’t differentiate between, say, the narrow
AI that allows a car to figure out what a lane
line is, and navigate streets, versus general intelligence. Like these are just very different things. Like your toaster and your
computer are both machines, but one’s much more
sophisticated than another. – You’re confident with
Tesla you can create the world’s best toaster– – The world’s best toaster, yes. The world’s best self-driving… yes, to me right now this
seems game, set and match. I mean, I don’t want us to be complacent or over-confident, but that’s what it, that is just literally
how it appears right now, I could be wrong, but it
appears to be the case that Tesla is vastly ahead of everyone. – Do you think we will ever create an AI system that we can
love, and loves us back in a deep meaningful way,
like in the movie Her? – I think AI will
capable of convincing you to fall in love with it very well. – And that’s different than us humans? – You know, we start getting into a metaphysical question of, do emotions and thoughts exist in a different realm than the physical? And maybe they do, maybe
they don’t, I don’t know. But from a physics standpoint,
I tend to think of things, you know, like physics was
my main sort of training, and from a physics
standpoint, essentially, if it loves you in a
way that you can’t tell whether it’s real or not, it is real. – That’s a physics view of love. – Yeah (laughs), if you
cannot prove that it does not, if there’s no test that you can apply that would make it, allow you to tell the difference, then there is no difference. – Right, and it’s similar to
seeing our world a simulation, they may not be a test to
tell the difference between what the real world
– Yes. – and the simulation, and therefore, from a physics perspective, it might as well be the same thing. – Yes, and there may
be ways to test whether it’s a simulation, there might be, I’m not saying there aren’t. But you could certainly imagine that a simulation could correct, that once an entity in
the simulation found a way to detect the simulation, it could either pause the simulation, start a new simulation, or
do one of many other things that then corrects for that error. – So when, maybe you,
or somebody else creates an AGI system, and you get
to ask her one question, what would that question be? – What’s outside the simulation? – Elon, thank you so
much for talking today, it’s a pleasure. – All right, thank you.