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Tesla to build data centre in China to collect AI training data

Written by Tue 21 May 2024

Tesla plans to build a data centre inside China to utilise Chinese data in training the algorithm used for Full Self Driving (FSD) vehicles.

If approved, an in-country data centre would allow Tesla to access user data gathered by its vehicles while complying with Chinese data storage regulations. According to a recent report by Reuters, people with knowledge of the situation confirmed the new plan.

Building a data centre within China represents a shift from Tesla’s strategy for Chinese data to date. Until now, Tesla has focused on securing approval to transfer Chinese data out of the country.

This strategy is used by other vehicle manufacturers, such as Hyundai, Volkswagen, and Nissan. These automakers have received permission from the state to circumvent the restrictions on moving data outside Chinese borders. That data, however, is not cleared to be used for training purposes.

Currently, it is unclear whether Tesla is pursuing the construction of a new data centre instead of working to ship data out of China or whether the two strategies will be pursued simultaneously.

The news of the proposed Chinese data centre may be surprising to some, as Musk had previously stated opposition to constructing a data centre within Chinese borders because transporting data outside was the more efficient option.

Chinese data will be extremely valuable for training AI models for several reasons. First, China is the world’s largest market for automobile sales overall. Second, China has the greatest share of electric vehicles of any country globally, with 60% of EVs sold globally in 2023. This purchasing trend is expected to continue through 2030, by which time one-third of all vehicles in China will be EVs.

Finally, China has an enormous fleet of connected vehicles, which gathers data from some of the most complicated, congested cities in the world. All of this means there is a huge amount of data being gathered by the vehicles, and algorithmic training models, like those needed for FSD, require an enormous amount of data.

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Written by Tue 21 May 2024

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