Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA) concluded that high-performance computers that provide autopilot functions on next-generation machines may be as effective as data centers as sources of carbon emissions.
The authors of the study derived from the assumption that by 2050 autopilot platforms will be equipped with 95 percent of cars, that is, about a billion cars in the world. If the on-board computers required for this are 840 watts, then their combined carbon emissions will be equal to the ones from the data center in 2018.
Scientists agree that their conclusions are still mostly conditional: the calculations themselves aren't that difficult to make, but there is still a significant uncertainty factor in the initial data, because we are talking about technologies that don't yet exist. For example, existing deep neural networks with indicators of their computing power had to be used as a basis.
Scientists have determined that the on-board computer's average power should not exceed 1.2 kW, and that the electronics' energy efficiency should improve — it should increase every 1.1 years, not every 2.8 years, as it is now. So there is still time to address the issue of on-board computers and their carbon emissions.
Scientists highlight a special set of on-board computers, which includes special hardware components and general-purpose equipment, as well as optimization of software algorithms, in order to avoid over-simplification of systems, while avoiding compromising on security concerns. In addition, we will have to assess the contributions of other components required for the operation of the autopilot, which were not considered in this study.
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