What Is Going On With Tesla’s Dojo?


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Tesla Dojo was going to change the world. It was Tesla’s secret sauce to help solve Full Self Driving, and general AI. Then we stopped hearing about it. It sort of just faded into the background. I figured, well, there’s so much to talk about and a gigantic computer just isn’t flashy enough and is going to do its job in the background.

However, right at the end of the Q4 2023 Tesla conference call for investors a couple of weeks ago, a question was asked about Dojo, and the answer surprised me. “As a followup, your release does not mention Dojo, so if you could just provide us an update on where Dojo stands, and at what point you expect Dojo to be a resource at improving FSD, or do you think that you now have sufficient supply of NVIDIA GPUs needed for the training of the system?”

I expected some big flowery words there about Dojo and how revolutionary it is. Instead, we got this from Elon Musk: “I mean, the AI hardware question is — that is a deep one. Um, so, we’re obviously hedging our bets here with significant orders of NVIDIA GPUs — GPUs are the wrong word, there really needs to be … there’s no graph—, you can’t, like, produce graphics. It’s not a graphics processing unit — neural net processing unit or something like that. Um, yeah, GPU’s a funny word — like vestigial. Um, so, um, and a lot of our progress in self-driving is training limited. Um, something that’s important with training — it’s much like a human: the more effort you put into training, the less effort you need in inference. So, just like a person — if you train in a subject (you know the sort of classic 10,000 hours), the less mental effort it takes to do something. If you remember when you first started to drive, how much of your mental capacity it took to drive. You had to be focused completely on driving. And after you’ve been driving for many years, it only takes a little bit of your mind to drive. You can think about other things and still drive safely.

“So, the more training you do, there more efficient it is at the inference level. So we do need a lot of training. Um, and um, and we’re pursuing the dual path of NVIDIA and Dojo. But I would — think of Dojo as … a long shot. Um, it’s a long shot worth taking, because the payoff is potentially very high, but it’s not something that is a high probability — it’s not like a sure thing, at all. It’s a higher-risk, high-payoff program. Um, Dojo is working, and it is doing training jobs. So, and we are scaling it up. And we have plans for Dojo 1.5, Dojo 2, Dojo 3, and what not. So, you know, I think it’s got potential. [Elon Musk sighs at this point.] But, we can’t emphasize enough: high risk, high payoff. So, I think it still makes sense, given the — you know, even if it’s a low probability of success, but a very high — anyway, I’m belaboring the subject! It’s a very interesting program. It has the potential for something special. There’s also our inference hardware in the car … [and he then went on to talk about that for a couple of minutes].”

Say what?!?!? This is not how Elon Musk was talking about Dojo a couple years ago! But even more than what was said, how Elon Musk talked about this — seemingly resigned to less than amazing results with this — was probably an even bigger deal. It was not at all what I expected. It didn’t sound bullish. Have a listen and let us know what you think.

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