This month, Tesla manages to quietly hire microprocessor engineer Jim Keller, the genius behind Apple’s A-series and AMD’s Zen chips, to take over its Autopilot hardware.
In a statement, Tesla confirmed hiring the high-profile CPU architect as vice president of Autopilot Hardware Engineering.
“Jim will bring together the best internal and external hardware technologies to develop the safest, most advanced autopilot systems in the world,” reads part of the statement.
Keller’s expertise in hardware engineering, particularly in the niche of low-power design, is deemed useful in many of Tesla’s current programs. These include the processing capability needed for its Autopilot self-driving technology, brought in through software version 7.0 starting last October but whose features were recently curbed on the Model S.
Nvidia ARM CPUs currently power the center stack of Tesla.
Keller left AMD, or Advanced Micro Devices, in late 2015 after being at the helm of its Zen processor architecture. Much earlier, Keller was already part of the chipmaking firm during its fierce CPU battle with Intel. He left in 1999, and then returned in 2012 as its Chief Architect of Microprocessor Cores.
Prior to his return to AMD, Keller led a significant role at Apple and helped develop its A-series processor, which debuted in the iPad and the iPhone 4 and powered most of Apple's mobile devices in 2010 to 2012.
Before Apple, he was also vice president for design at fabless semiconductor design company P.A. Semi, with a specialization in low-power mobile processors acquired in 2008 by Apple.
Keller, who is rumored to have jumped to Samsung late last year, joined a number of Apple alumni already in Tesla’s stable, including former vice president of Mac engineering Doug Field, now Tesla’s vice president of engineering.
Many names in the tech world are already making serious pitches to create smart automobiles, such as Google’s self-driving cars, Uber’s autonomous vehicle testing and Apple’s rumored interest in such development.
And while there is still quite a long road ahead when it comes to truly autonomous driving, the move to hire the likes of Keller is viewed as walking the talk, and it would be interesting to see where the designer of one of the most groundbreaking processors of the past decades can take Tesla in its mission.