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Tesla’s self-driving patent application hints at AI safety improvements

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A Tesla patent application titled “System and Method for Handling Errors in a Vehicle Neural Network Processor” describes a method to securely handle errors encountered in self-driving software. As opposed to risking delays in driving a signal is delivered to dismiss the bad info and continue processing as usual. Tesla’s program was published May 23, 2019 as International Publication No. WO/2019/099941.

During self-driving operations in Tesla’s program, streams of input data are received and used to train its neural network and initiate a car response. If something in the information is wrong or causes a delay in processing, the real life impact can be catastrophic if not managed properly. At a vehicle, sensor data can become stale and cause the software to react. This can lead to accidents, property damage, injury, and/or passing. The solution presented in Tesla’s patent application tries to prevent such processing delays altogether and thus enhances the protection of the software that is self-driving overall.

Tesla’s patent application as follows describes the issue:

“Some kinds of errors may cause network chip workout or to hang. That is, one or more parts of neural network chip may freeze or otherwise remain inactive for more than a predetermined quantity of time. When a timeout error is encountered, [the ] neural network chip may cease to offer output data and/or respond to input information. Other kinds of errors may cause the output data generated by [the ] neural network chip to be corrupted. When such errors are encountered [the ] neural network processor may continue to offer output data, but the result might be incorrect, meaningless, unusable. ”


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On its face, the concept behind creation might appear somewhat simple, but likely because of the complexity of neural networks and the field of autonomous driving still being fairly new, Tesla’s solution is innovative and unique. At the international review stage in the patent application process, the Examiner found that Tesla’s patent was novel (new) compared to similar neural network inventions already in the field. Specifically, the following was remarked in a Written Opinion:

“Although neural network processors are well known in the art, such as in the performance of a car, the inclusion of having the control signal a pending data result is tainted, or incorrect, without terminating the execution of the network, improves upon earlier art chips by ensuring that the computations of the chip in the automobile continue while disregarding data determined to be in error, and would need a sophistication beyond the ordinary skill, and consequently …meets the…criteria for patentability. ”

Concerns about Tesla’s Autopilot software were struck by a report published by Consumer Reports wherein the consumer advocacy group reasoned that Navigate on Autopilot with autonomic lane changes was more of a liability than an asset. The report stated that, since the feature requires drivers to be one step ahead of this machine while it’s engaged, it still needs improvement, although the identical group found Tesla’s autonomous driving software to be more capable than the competition. However, the report was focused on how Navigate on Autopilot works when changing lanes confirmation and warnings are disabled, contrary to scathing headlines that lumped all of Autopilot’s attributes together with the review.

This patent application indicates that Tesla is constantly improving its self-driving features, if this t s frequent over-the-air software releases.

In Tesla’s Autonomy Day for investors last month, CEO Elon Musk declared that the firm ’s Full Self-Driving computer was the “best in the world”. As information becomes available, like demonstrations on Tesla’s technologies and Musk’s confidence expressed in his statement becomes more clear. Full Self-Driving is expected to be feature-complete this year and will become available as hurdles are overcome.

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