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Musk Is Pushing For Tesla's AI Goals To Be Powered By China Data

Musk Is Pushing For Tesla's AI Goals To Be Powered By China Data
As part of a strategic move by Elon Musk, Tesla is moving forward with plans to power the worldwide development of its self-driving system using data from China that might be processed within the nation, according to people with knowledge of the effort.
As part of that endeavour, two persons who wished to remain anonymous due to the nature of the work being done in confidence, said that Tesla has been designing plans for a data centre in China to train the algorithm required for more completely autonomous cars.
These two persons, along with another person with knowledge of the situation, indicate that Tesla had up until recently concentrated on attempts to obtain permission from Chinese regulators to move data collected by its EVs in China out of the nation for its "Full Self Driving" (FSD) system.
It was unclear if Tesla would move forward with data transmission and a local data centre, the two alternatives it had chosen to handle self-driving data from China, or if it was creating backup plans in case something went wrong.
Tesla's endeavours highlight how quickly the manufacturer of electric vehicles has shifted its strategy to capitalise on an AI breakthrough at a time when demand for EVs has decreased and competition is growing.
The manufacturer is attempting to enhance its artificial intelligence for driving by using more data from Chinese automobiles, a move that coincides with efforts by the US government to restrict the transfer of AI technology from American companies to Chinese ones.
An expansion of the FSD market in China would help the automaker's earnings and sales at a time when both are under pressure from BYD and other Chinese competitors.
An inquiry for comment from Tesla was not answered.
According to two of the individuals, Tesla would need to collaborate with a Chinese partner in order to establish a data centre for FSD research in China. Another possible issue is finding hardware suppliers.
One of the persons who was informed about the conversations said that it has had discussions with Nvidia over the purchase of graphics processing units for a data centre in China. The most cutting-edge processors from Nvidia and its partners cannot be sold in China because to U.S. sanctions.
Regarding if it had conversations with Tesla, Nvidia remained silent.
After Elon Musk met with Premier Li Qiang and other authorities during a quick trip to Beijing last month, Tesla's effort to leverage more data from China was put into high gear.
According to two of the people, Musk wanted to expedite approval for Tesla's data transfer during his meeting with Li. They also mentioned the possibility of Tesla funding a data centre in China.
According to one source, Musk also touched on the subject of Tesla potentially licencing its FSD technology to Chinese EV manufacturers. Without identifying the company, Musk had stated in April that Tesla was in talks to licence FSD with another "major" carmaker.
A request for comment from the State Council Information Office of China was not answered.
China, the largest automobile market in the world, has the greatest fleet of sensor-equipped vehicles that can gather data from clogged cities with intricate traffic patterns. As a result, data gathered there is important to automakers and artificial intelligence companies.
According to two sources, Musk had previously stated that he was against a data centre located in China, claiming that data transmission to the US was the most effective solution.
Tesla has kept data gathered from its Chinese electric vehicles in Shanghai since 2021. According to two sources, Tesla's China team has been requesting permission from Chinese authorities to export data outside of the nation during that period.
Companies in Shanghai's Lingang Area—home of Tesla's factory—will be able to transfer specific data without requiring further security evaluations as part of a one-year trial experiment, according to Reuters on Friday.
According to some experts, Musk wants to use China as a testing ground for self-driving technology, much to how Tesla was able to become a successful mass-market electric vehicle manufacturer thanks to its 2019 wager on its Shanghai Gigafactory.
"It would definitely be a milestone for Tesla if it rolls out FSD in China and leverages the China data for algorithm training," said Yale Zhang, managing director at Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight.
"China had played a key role in scaling up EV production for Tesla with the Shanghai factory. It would again serve a significant part in scaling up mass adoption of autonomous driving technologies," he said.
Although estimates vary greatly, many industry experts believe it will take years before completely autonomous cars become the norm.
China is now offering "level two" driver assistance functions, which means a driver must be prepared to take control. Level-two systems that need careful driving include Tesla's FSD and its less sophisticated Autopilot alternatives.
Limited test zones are used by, an autonomous driving company, and Baidu, the largest search engine operator in China, to run fleets of more fully automated vehicles.
However, improved driver assistance systems and self-driving capabilities have become top priorities for Chinese EV manufacturers, such as BYD. Licences to test level-three systems, which enable drivers to take their hands off the wheel and gaze away on a greater variety of Chinese roads, have been given to Mercedes and BMW.
Lawyers, state media sources, and experts claim that at least five automakers—Hyundai, Mazda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Nissan—have permission to export some of their data outside of China. However, none of these permissions pertain to the use of data for AI system training.
Organisations that advocate for foreign companies operating in China claim that the penalties for breaking China's new data privacy regulations, which went into force in 2021, pose a serious risk to data operations.
During a conference call with investors following Tesla's quarterly results last month, Musk was asked about competition from Chinese EV manufacturers and said that Tesla should be seen more as an AI firm.
He expressed confidence in the FSD technology of Tesla, saying it will function "pretty well without modification in almost any market." According to Musk, it would function better with "country-specific" training.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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