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Indian-origin engineer Ashok Elluswamy earns high praise from Elon Musk for pioneering Tesla’s AI and autopilot

Indian-origin engineer Ashok Elluswamy earns high praise from Elon Musk for pioneering Tesla’s AI and autopilot
On Sunday, Elon Musk took to social media to express his appreciation for Ashok Elluswamy, highlighting the Indian-origin robotics engineer’s pivotal role in Tesla’s “success in AI” and the Autopilot software.

In 2021, Musk had announced Elluswamy as the first hire for Tesla’s Autopilot team. Elluswamy, who hails from India, earned a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Communication from the College of Engineering Guindy in Chennai. He later moved to the US to pursue a Master of Science in Robotic Systems Development at Carnegie Mellon University.

Acknowledging his role in Tesla’s growth, Musk posted on X (formerly Twitter): “Thanks Ashok! Ashok was the first person to join the Tesla AI/Autopilot team and ultimately rose to lead all AI/Autopilot software. Without him and our awesome team, we would just be another car company looking for an autonomy supplier that doesn't exist.”


Musk’s tweet was a response to Elluswamy’s own note on X, where Elluswamy reflected on Musk's bold vision and relentless perseverance, which proved instrumental in Tesla’s advancements in AI for autonomous driving and robotics. Elluswamy shared insights into the early days, where the challenge was to implement Autopilot on severely constrained hardware and the daring decision to develop Tesla’s computer vision capabilities internally within a tight timeframe.

Elluswamy further elaborated on how, despite facing scepticism and ridicule from industry experts, Tesla not only succeeded in launching the world’s first Autopilot system, but also committed to an AI-centric approach by moving away from traditional sensors. He emphasised how Musk’s dedication to creating custom AI hardware and pioneering projects like humanoid robots underlines his foresight in pushing the boundaries of real-world AI, ultimately establishing Tesla as a leader in the field.

Tesla’s Autopilot is a sophisticated semi-autonomous driving system that leverages cameras, sensors and radar to assist drivers. It automates certain driving tasks such as steering, acceleration and braking within a lane. Key Autopilot features include adaptive cruise control, lane centering and emergency braking.

Since 2016, Tesla has been developing its AI and computer vision capabilities in-house to power Autopilot. This involves training deep neural networks on raw camera images for tasks like semantic segmentation, object detection and monocular depth estimation. Tesla’s strategy prioritises vision and AI to achieve autonomy, rather than relying on external sensors or high-definition maps.

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