Tesla 3D labeling is the next big leap for Autopilot

Tesla Autopilot (Source: Elon Musk | Twitter)

Tesla’s 3D labeling efforts are integral to the development of its Full Self-Driving suite. Using over 2.2 billion miles of real-world driving data from its electric vehicle fleet, the electric car maker has a treasure trove of information about how human drivers behave.

Elon Musk recently confirmed that Tesla is finishing work on Autopilot core foundation code and 3D labeling, and once these are done, users can expect the electric carmaker to roll out more functionalities in a potentially more efficient manner. More advanced features such as Reverse Summon will also be rolled out.

Tesla 3D Labeling: The Next Big Thing

The Tesla CEO has tagged 3D labeling as the next big thing for the company’s efforts to achieve full self-driving. “In terms of labeling, labeling with video in all eight cameras simultaneously. This is a really, I mean in terms of labeling efficiency, arguably like a three order of magnitude improvement in labeling efficiency where Tesla vehicles use all of its eight cameras simultaneously, and that the company has improved significantly in terms of labeling efficiency,” Musk said during the Q4 2019 earnings call.

During Autonomy Day last year, Tesla’s AI head Andrej Karpathy gave the electric vehicle community an idea of how labeling is done. He said annotating data is a very expensive process that initially involved people processing data, but Tesla has also been using information from its fleet to automate the process of labeling using different mechanisms.

For example, in predicting cut-ins, Tesla taps into its fleet for data on such incidents. This information is then automatically annotated and used to train the neural network, which in turn learns from recognizable patterns. This information is then spun until the neural network is trained enough. Improvements in the neural network can then be rolled out as an update for Autopilot.

The same is true according to Karpathy when it comes to object detection. Tesla sources data from its fleet to learn more about different objects and anomalies on the road. With automated 3D labeling, the neural network can more efficiently process the information and learn even about the rarest things one can encounter on the road.

Karpathy and Musk explained how annotations from its fleet help with path prediction. Using trajectories collected from the real-world, the neural network can improve its driving behavior, say while approaching a corner that it doesn’t actively see. This smarter neural network is perfectly demonstrated by an older Model X with early-gen Autopilot negotiating a muddy rural backroad recently, after a storm in the United Kingdom.

All of these things form part of the equation to achieve Full Self-Driving capabilities. Likely through 3D labeling improvements in the past year or so, Tesla has immensely improved driving visualizations in vehicles equipped with Hardware 3, which now identify traffic lights, garbage cans, and detailed road markings, among others. Thus, Elon Musk’s explanation about rewriting the Autopilot foundational code and 3D labeling could be a way of emphasizing that Tesla owners’ investment in the company’s Full Self-Driving suite would be proven worth it and more soon.

Tesla’s FSD computer and autonomy software will transform how humans travel. The company’s vehicles will be smart enough to drive like humans and eventually make the roads a few times safer for everyone. This may also pave the way for Robotaxis and help achieve Musk’s vision of Teslas earning for their owners while they are busy with work or even while relaxing at home. Tesla Robotaxis would be an attractive form of transportation as they will be more cost-efficient compared to driving personal cars, as predicted by ARK Invest.

Autonomy As Key To Profitability

Autonomy will spell profits for Tesla, as Elon Musk explained during the company’s Q4 2019 earnings call. In order to achieve sustained profitability, Tesla needs to produce high volume units with high margins. Musk appears to consider autonomy as key to Tesla’s high margins as well.

“As we’re close to Full Self-Driving, that is just going to become more and more compelling. So that’s for our financial standpoint, that’s the real mind-blowing situation is high-volume, high-margin because of autonomy,” Musk said.

With FSD capabilities, Tesla adds more value proposition that can help sway even more customers to purchase its electric vehicles from the Model 3, Model Y, Model S, Model X, or the Cybertruck. Depending on regulations in specific regions, Tesla can tap into most of its earnings potential, which bodes well since the company has current plans to expand its presence worldwide with Gigafactories in multiple regions.

Tesla’s path to autonomy is only one of the aspects that make it the leader in the electric vehicle industry. Add to that its advancements on car connectivity and battery technology and one will complete the equation why legacy carmakers with the deepest of pockets can only watch in amazement as a relatively young electric car maker dominates the emerging EV industry.

Tesla 3D labeling is the next big leap for Autopilot
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