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Self-driving EV computers like Tesla HW4 could generate climate change emissions to rival all data centers

EV self-driving computers may increase climate emissions (image: Tesla)
EV self-driving computers may increase climate emissions (image: Tesla)
The green EV credentials are under threat from a new MIT study that calculates future greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles with computers dedicated to autonomous driving tasks. Self-driving kits like Tesla's upcoming Hardware 4 upgrade could produce climate change emissions equal to or surpassing those of all current data centers combined if their power draw is not kept in check.

While Tesla is preparing to release the Hardware 4.0 computer upgrade for its next Full Self-Driving Beta kit generation, MIT researchers are warning that cars equipped with autonomous driving chips may generate greenhouse gas emissions on par with the world's data centers. If 95% of the electric cars on the road by 2050 have some sort of autonomous driving capabilities with the respective chip and sensor paraphernalia, for instance, computational efficiency would need to double almost every year so as to keep the fleet's climate change emissions under the level of current data centers.

According to one of the study's authors Soumya Sudhakar, an MIT graduate student in aeronautics and astronautics:

If we just keep the business-as-usual trends in decarbonization and the current rate of hardware efficiency improvements, it doesn’t seem like it is going to be enough to constrain the emissions from computing onboard autonomous vehicles. This has the potential to become an enormous problem. But if we get ahead of it, we could design more efficient autonomous vehicles that have a smaller carbon footprint from the start.

In an example where a self-driving EV system comprises of ten cameras with neural network processing images from each, the car equipped with it would be making more than 21 million interferences per hour of driving. A billion such vehicles, or about two thirds of the current global fleet of cars, would create 21.6 quadrillion inferences in just an hour, or many times more than the whole of Facebook for a day with its data centers.

"We are hoping that people will think of emissions and carbon efficiency as important metrics to consider in their designs. The energy consumption of an autonomous vehicle is really critical, not just for extending the battery life, but also for sustainability," added Vivienne Sze, an associate professor at MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The study of future autonomous driving system greenhouse gas emissions calculates that their computers would have to keep the power draw at not more than 1.2 kW in order to have some acceptable level of emissions throughout the life cycle of the car.

The solution that the MIT study's authors point out to, is making autonomous driving computers like Tesla's upcoming Hardware 4.0 even more specialized and the self-driving algorithms more efficient in terms of power consumption, without compromising vehicle safety.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2023 01 > Self-driving EV computers like Tesla HW4 could generate climate change emissions to rival all data centers
Daniel Zlatev, 2023-01-20 (Update: 2023-01-20)