Home » Somehow Even Elon Musk Thinks AI Development Needs Restraint

Somehow Even Elon Musk Thinks AI Development Needs Restraint

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A fine Wednesday morning to you all. Welcome back to The Autopian’s morning news roundup, now featuring our upgraded commenting system. It’s the slickest and most high-tech way yet for you to tell me (incorrectly) that I’m wrong. Today, you can use it to weigh in on Elon Musk’s surprising take on artificial intelligence; Mazda’s more concrete plans about moving upmarket; the additional layoffs at Lucid; and how American cities are so mad at Hyundai they’re filing lawsuits. Let’s make it happen.

Musk, Wozniak, AI Researchers Say Slow Down

Tesla Model 3 touchscreen
Photo credit: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

This year will likely be remembered as the one when the world started taking artificial intelligence more seriously. But the fact that we’ve gone from “What the hell is ChatGPT?” to “How can it replace all the writers at CNET?” in like, five minutes, is deeply concerning. After all, Big Tech has an extraordinarily poor track record when it comes to developing things that have real, tangible impacts on people’s health and safety. Just look at Theranos, or the apparent link between Facebook posts and genocide, or the many false promises and dangerous missteps around self-driving cars. (Why, just this past week, a Cruise test car plowed into a San Francisco bus. When do we see any benefits from this again?)

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

So the fact that even Elon Musk—whose Tesla Autopilot system has been roundly criticized for pushing the boundaries of safety—is among those signing a letter urging caution around AI development is really something. That letter came out today and it includes Musk, Apple co-founder and technologist Steve Wozniak, and numerous researchers. This is from The Verge:

The letter, published by the nonprofit Future of Life Institute, notes that AI labs are currently locked in an “out-of-control race” to develop and deploy machine learning systems “that no one — not even their creators — can understand, predict, or reliably control.”

“Therefore, we call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4,” says the letter. “This pause should be public and verifiable, and include all key actors. If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium.”

Signatories include author Yuval Noah Harari, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, politician Andrew Yang, and a number of well-known AI researchers and CEOs, including Stuart Russell, Yoshua Bengio, Gary Marcus, and Emad Mostaque. The full list of signatories can be seen here, though new names should be treated with caution as there are reports of names being added to the list as a joke (e.g. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, an individual who is partly responsible for the current race dynamic in AI).

You can read the letter in full here. As that story notes, it’s unlikely to have a measurable impact on AI deployment because lots of companies are rushing this stuff to market either for their product viability or just to grab investor cash.

Now, what does this have to do with cars, you ask? The answer is a lot, down the line.

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AI is considered by many in the auto industry to be crucial to the software-focused features and developments planned for future cars, including virtual personal assistants, customizing the driving experience, manufacturing, connected cars and, most notably, autonomous cars. The lack of AI sophistication is the reason driverless cars are hitting walls lately (sometimes literally, like when a Tesla self-parks inside an Arby’s yet again.)

Automakers across the board are making huge pushes into software, including developing whole divisions like Volkswagen’s CARIAD and General Motors’ Ultifi, and you had better believe they’re all making big plans for AI in cars. Hearing caution from Musk, of all people, says a lot here.

I hope companies take heed, but I’m not especially optimistic. Capitalism gonna capitalism.

Mazda’s Premium American Push Comes Into Focus

2024 Mazda Cx 90 06

I’m a Mazda fan. I’ll admit it. And not just for rotary engines or the 787B, but for the current stuff. These days your humble Editor-at-Large mostly drives a 2018 Mazda 3 hatchback. It’s not the fastest car I’ve ever owned, but it is the nicest; dead reliable, great on gas, plush inside (I have a Grand Touring so it’s got some nice stuff) and a shockingly good handler for its class. Cars like that are why I want to see the brand be successful.

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But as we all know, it’s tough out there for small players like Mazda, especially with the demands of electrification—not to mention all the tech stuff I just mentioned above. Still, Mazda has new leadership as of this year and it has big plans for its most important market, America. The plan is crossovers, luxury and electrification. Here’s Tom Donnelly, the new CEO of Mazda North American Operations, talking to Automotive News:

First on the to-do list: launching two new crossovers that are vital to the brand’s move upmarket — the CX-90 and CX-70 — designed specifically for U.S. consumers.

Donnelly expects that CX-90 will log sales in the 90,000 range, eventually equal to “three to potentially four times the volume increase from the outgoing model.” In 2022, Mazda sales of CX-9 topped 34,500, according to the Automotive News Research & Data Center.

[…] Donnelly said the CX-90 and CX-70 represent the first part of Mazda’s “multiphase plan,” which is the introduction of its plug-in hybrid technology.

 
Clearly, Mazda has very big plans for the new CX-90. Also from that story: the goofy, 100-mile electric MX-30 will continue on as the weird experiment it is, but “Mazda’s priority in the U.S. are the PHEVs.” I say this is a good thing. PHEVs are a great way to cut back on gas usage and carbon emissions, and they’re a wonderful solution for people who can’t make the switch to full EVs yet.
 
[Editor’s Note: I don’t think we should sleep on the MX-30, particularly the R-EV, because with a small rotary generator, this thing could be fantastic. Not unlike my BMW i3! I will say that Mazda’s decision to debut as a pure EV with only 100-ish miles of range was possibly the dumbest call all year. Launch with the range extender; obviously! -DT].  
 
I just hope Mazda doesn’t totally neglect smaller or medium-sized If I could get something like my Mazda 3—maybe even a little bigger, but not CX-90 big—with that quality interior and sharp handling but in PHEV or even decent-range EV form, that’s absolutely something I’d buy.
 

More Lucid Layoffs

Lucid Air Sapphire Front Three Quarters
Photo credit: Lucid Motors

 

It’s not just hard for the smaller legacy automakers. It’s hard for everyone. But I think the startups are having an especially rough time right now. Rivian is facing significant headwinds and some of the really upstart players like Canoo may not make it through the year. Now Lucid, which has been struggling to keep demand for its cars up, is cutting nearly 20% of its workforce, Reuters reports:

The maker of Air luxury sedan last month forecast 2023 production that fell well short of analysts’ expectations and reported a major drop in orders during the fourth quarter.

The company plans to communicate with all its employees over the next three days about the plan, CEO Peter Rawlinson said in a letter, adding its U.S. workforce will see reductions in nearly every organization and level, including executives.

Lucid, which had about 7,200 employees at the end of last year, will incur between $24 million and $30 million in related charges. The company expects to substantially complete the restructuring plan by the end of the second quarter.

“We are also taking continued steps to manage our costs by reviewing all non-critical spending at this time,” Rawlinson said.

That’s deeply unfortunate. But it’s the same story at countless companies, especially in tech this year. Lucid’s dealing with rising interest rates, tough EV competition, a tightening capital market for startups and general economic uncertainty—plus the usual “production hell” stuff that every new car company faces. I like Rawlinson a lot and I think the Air is an impressive product; let’s hope they can all persevere through this tough moment.

Everyone Is Mad At Hyundai And Kia

You remember those rampant Hyundai and Kia thefts recently where countless cars got Gone in 60 Seconds-‘d with humble USB cables? Hell, you may have even lost your own car that way. You certainly wouldn’t be alone there. While the Hyundai Motor Group has issued a fix for the problem, it’s about to face significant legal headwinds over the problem.

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Reuters reports the city of St. Louis is suing the automaker, and in doing so it joins a bunch of other cities doing the same:

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Missouri follows similar actions taken by several U.S. cities to address increasing Hyundai and Kia thefts that use a method popularized on TikTok and other social media channels. Other cities suing Kia and Hyundai include Cleveland, Ohio; San Diego, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Columbus, Ohio; and Seattle.

“Big corporations like Kia and Hyundai must be held accountable for endangering our residents and putting profit over people,” said St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones.

Kia and Hyundai vehicles represent a large share of stolen cars in multiple U.S. cities, according to data from police and state officials. Many Hyundai and Kia vehicles have no electronic immobilizers, which prevent break-ins and bypassing the ignition.

The automaker responded by saying the lawsuits are “without merit.” That probably came from a spokesperson whose Sonata was stolen mere moments later by a group of teens who made a TikTok dance video while they did it.

Anyway, if you own one of these cars, make sure you’re getting it fixed ASAP.

Your Turn

What’s your take on all this AI stuff, especially when it comes to cars? The people I talk to regularly in the industry do seem to think it’s crucial to delivering the tech-focused future they want. Now, I’m not convinced all of that stuff (especially the subscription thing) is what car owners want, but I think we’re deluding ourselves if we believe this is all going away anytime soon.

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Bork Bork
Bork Bork
1 year ago

Musk once said OpenAI is fatally behind Google and the only way to fix it to place him in charge. Now that he’s the one trying to catch up he wants others to be stalled. Things like Alpaca have show there’s no putting the AI genie back in the bottle anymore.

Anoos
Anoos
1 year ago

How do those cities have any standing to sue Hyundai?

It would be great if the cars were not so easy to steal, but the thieves are residents of those cities. I have personally known that these cars are easy to steal and have easily walked past hundreds of them without stealing a single one.

It would be less of a legal stretch for Hyundai to sue those cities for damaging their reputation through the excessive thefts.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 year ago

Hey, Bard. Write a song about cheese taking over the world.

(Verse 1)
Cheese is taking over the world
It’s in our food, it’s in our air
It’s even in our water
(Chorus)
Cheese, cheese, it’s the end of the world
As we know it
And I feel fine
(Verse 2)
Cheese is the new currency
It’s the only thing that matters
It’s the only thing that’s worth anything
(Chorus)
Cheese, cheese, it’s the end of the world
As we know it
And I feel fine
(Bridge)
Cheese is the new god
It’s the only thing that can save us
It’s the only thing that can make everything right
(Chorus)
Cheese, cheese, it’s the end of the world
As we know it
And I feel fine

Aside from the blatant REM ripoff, it’s not bad. But I think this “AI” thing still has a ways to go. I could definitely see cheese becoming currency. It pretty much already is in my household.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago

Musk calling for a pause on big AI experiments means either full self driving development must be paused or it’s not a powerful AI.

Ron888
Ron888
1 year ago

It’s great that some important people are urging caution with AI.It can and obviously will go down many dark paths if no one is overseeing it.
AI is essentially a try-it-and-see machine.It must NEVER be allowed to control actual machines,etc .By all means use it to design stuff,build software,etc but test the end result before releasing it!

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
1 year ago

“…virtual personal assistants, customizing the driving experience, manufacturing, connected cars and, most notably, autonomous cars.”

All the things I have no use for and positively do not want in a car, except perhaps autonomous driving when it reaches Level 5++, which is not going to happen in my lifetime anyway.

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
1 year ago

Why do I get the feeling that Elon’s plea to pause AI development is nothing more than him seeing an opportunity to play catch up in secret because it’s evident they’re falling behind in the race.

B85S5DSG
B85S5DSG
1 year ago
Reply to  FlavouredMilk

You beat me to it. There’s no way a madman like Musk would be doing it out of good will.

1789667
1789667
1 year ago
Reply to  FlavouredMilk

100% he is soooo cheap. I wonder why nobody catched that.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
1 year ago

There is no such thing as “artificial intelligence”. It’s simulated intelligence, and nothing more.

Andrew Bugenis
Andrew Bugenis
1 year ago

I’m upset that AI is coming for creative jobs and not drudgery jobs. Quality issues aside, which will likely be rectified in the coming decade, I see everybody having to work the most meaningless, dull jobs in the name of continued employment, and I expect I’ll keel over and die before society as a whole realizes that AI can replace enough jobs that our economic system has to change to accommodate it.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Bugenis

Hear, hear.

Also, these language models are the most boring writers this side of a nepo-baby intern’s half-assed press release re-hash. Any herbs looking to replace creatives with these tings, well, they get what they pay for. (With bonus plagiarism! That, too.)

Citrus
Citrus
1 year ago

The problem with AI like ChatGPT is that it’s good enough that people who don’t know how bad it is. The writing is bad, the art is bad, the programming is bad… But if you can’t tell, it looks good. It can put together a sentence but it isn’t accurate. It can assemble a drawing but the drawing has countless flaws. It can write code but the code is buggy.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

Yeah, it’s butt at this kind of stuff. That JEANIYOUSSS rendering of the Mona Lisa eating pommes schranke at Brünnchen as twelve Miatas wipe out in the background is gonna have seven fingers per hand, too.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

Sounds like 90% of human made equivalents

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

It’s not even that it’s bad at things, exactly. It’s very good at what it does, but what it does is pattern-match to spew plausible sentences. Not only is it not trying for accuracy, but there’s no intent at all behind it. It’s really, really sophisticated predictive text.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
1 year ago

AI is just irritating. There is nothing truly helpful I’ve heard about it, and I’m tired of everyone saying it’s “the future.” The tech-focused future is one I want no part in, and the robots can pry my outdated mechanical things out of my cold dead hands.

Like, the internet is cool and all, but otherwise it seems like most technological “advancements” over the last decade have only made things worse, or at least created as many problems as benefits. All these dystopian writers told us AI could only be a bad thing, and they were right, but nobody listened and now here we are.

Ron888
Ron888
1 year ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

Yep It’s the latest fad.Or religion actually, given how deep many dive in

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

Just thinking Musk might have already created perfect AI. But when talking to it found out it calls him on BS and mistakes. Then he is like maybe we need to rethink this? Lol

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 year ago

As a Mazda fan I sure hope the move upscale doesn’t come at the cost of driving dynamics. I owned a Protege 5 and currently daily drive an ’08 Mazdaspeed 3, and my wife has a ’17 CX-9, and all are fun to drive with a good chassis which is what attracted me to the brand. My wife’s CX-9 is very nice inside but if that was the only criteria for purchase there are plenty of other mainstream CUVs with nice interiors that fit the bill. The fact that they now have 5 CUVs doesn’t give me much hope that they’ll prioritize the fun-to-drive aspect going forward.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Hear, hear. They even made the Mazda3 a bit worse in the name of moving upmarket, and no sir, I don’t like it. It went from being a car I’d sometimes see at autocross as the enthusiast pick of the segment to, nope, that’s the Civic now.

The Miata can’t be the only “fun” car for them to keep their existing fanbase. I haven’t had a Mazda—they never made a hardtop Miata, lol—but it’s a company I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for, regardless.

Last edited 1 year ago by Stef Schrader
LTDScott
LTDScott
1 year ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Yep. I’m in the market for a used replacement for my MS3 as it’s starting to get old and I’m concerned about upcoming repairs, plus I just don’t have a need for a fast daily driver anymore (my 2x week commute is 8 miles roundtrip). The normal 3 hatchback is a contender, but I don’t think I’d be interested in the ’19+ version. Thankfully it’s out of my price range anyway, but if it wasn’t I’d probably be looking at a Civic Sport instead.

Anoos
Anoos
1 year ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

I have owned a Miata for a while and have bought three other cars during my Miata ownership. No Mazda vehicles were even considered in shopping for those (except for my half-joking push for an ND).

Manual transmissions only seemed available in poorly-equipped trims. No wagons, no hybrids, no electrics, no RWD sedans… They’re barely stepping into the electric/hybrid game and they’re going to rely on a rotary range extender? Come on, guys. The last success Mazda has had with a rotary was thirty years ago, and that version was a hand grenade that ate its own overly-complex tubing if you managed to keep your apex seals intact for more than a few months.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 year ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Compared to other SUVs on the market, they’ve done a remarkable job of keeping them engaging and enjoyable to drive, even if they don’t make them “fun”. I’d rather be behind the wheel of a CX-5 than a RAV4 any day of the week.

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