Talking Teslas are on the Way

Tesla Model 3

In order to comply with safety regulations, EVs are required to produce “artificial noise.” (I shall restrain myself from commenting on the wisdom of our lawmakers here.) Tesla is no exception and, because he can, Elon Musk will use the legislated external speakers to do more than make fake car noises — Teslas will now speak.

“Well don’t just stand there staring, hop in.” said the Tesla to the pedestrian.

While this is funny on many levels, it speaks (pardon the pun) to a larger issue. A Tesla is a robot with wheels. It is powered by a narrow-purpose AI model that is continuously trained to drive itself from place to place. But it has a power plant, a renewable source of energy (you must keep it charged for it to fulfill its purpose), and it has enough payload capacity to house many other kinds of narrow-purpose AI models.

What will you do with your four-wheeled robot? If you anthropomorphize it, you get KITT from Knight Rider or My Mother the Car. (Bonus points if you have any idea what the premise of that 1960s sitcom was about.) If you take it a bit further, it’s C-3PO with wheels. In practice, it’s already an Alexa/Siri/Google Assistant… but that’s on the inside.

You could think about it in a limited way: the external speakers could be used to beep warnings when the car backs up, or as a modern-day loudspeaker car (it’s a campaign year, after all).

How should we think about it? Is the car an entity? Is it a tool? Is it a machine? Is it a companion? Is it an advertising vehicle? If it talks to strangers, what is it?

Imagine an empty, wayward Tesla pulling up to a charging station saying, “Charge me… please… I’m starving!” This is so much fun!


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Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

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