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Tesla Hires Former Apple And AMD Chip Guru

The competition between Apple and Tesla in the electric vehicle space takes a new twist with a former Apple chip guru Jim Keller moving over to the EV maker to work on its Autopilot feature.

Google, Tesla, Nissan: 6 Self-Driving Vehicles Cruising Our Way
Google, Tesla, Nissan: 6 Self-Driving Vehicles Cruising Our Way
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

In the competitive world of next-generation automotive technology, demand for top talent is voracious, which is why Tesla may have scored a coup in hiring former Apple and AMD chip expert Jim Keller.

Keller, who was most recently a lead architect at AMD overseeing the development of the upcoming Zen processor architecture, will move over to Tesla to work with its Autopilot development team. During his tenure at Apple, Keller designed Apple's A4 and A5 chips, which powered iPhones and iPads. Prior to joining Apple, Keller spent his first stint at AMD working on the Athlon K7 and K8 architectures.

The news was first reported by the tech blog Electrek, and the hire was later confirmed by Tesla in a written statement.

"Jim Keller is joining Tesla as Vice President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering," Tesla said in the statement to Electrek confirming the hire. "Jim will bring together the best internal and external hardware technologies to develop the safest, most advanced autopilot systems in the world."

While Tesla is arguably the highest profile electric car manufacturer, its vehicles are not yet capable of driving themselves, though company CEO Elon Musk hopes to change that with the rollout of the aforementioned Autopilot feature.

(Image: Tesla Motors)

(Image: Tesla Motors)

In October, the company announced the launch of Autopilot Version 7.0 software, which boasts a range of new active safety and convenience features designed to work in conjunction with the automated driving capabilities already offered in the company's Model S sedan.

Autopilot allows the Model S to steer within a lane, change lanes with the tap of a turn signal, and manage speed by using active, traffic-aware cruise control.

One month later, Tesla delivered a software update designed to allow owners of its high-end electric vehicles that are equipped with autopilot features to park their cars via remote. But the update also restricts their speed on residential streets and roads without center dividers.

Apple is also working on a top-secret electric (and possibly autonomous) vehicle of its own under the auspices of Project Titan, about which little is known.

In August, Apple made news after it hired Jamie Carlson. The former senior engineer at electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors, is now listed as an employee of Apple, under a Special Projects heading.

In an October interview with the German business newspaper Handelsblatt, the outspoken Musk took the opportunity to reference Apple's recent poaching of Tesla employees, who the report referred to as the company's most important engineers.

[Read Obama Proposes $4 Billion Budget for Self-Driving Cars.]

"We always jokingly call Apple the Tesla Graveyard," Musk told the paper. "They have hired people we've fired … If you don't make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I'm not kidding."

Later, Musk sent out a Tweet that backed off on some of the Apple comments.

"Yo, I don't hate Apple. It's a great company with a lot of talented people. I love their products and I'm glad they're doing an EV," he wrote on his official Twitter account.

While Musk may not be above throwing some light shade in the direction of his competition, other automotive powerhouses have been more positively impressed by the efforts of electric vehicle manufacturers in the US.

Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board for Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz, came back from a recent visit to Silicon Valley with the impression that Google and Apple are farther along with their automotive projects than he had assumed.

"Our impression was that these companies can do more and know more than we had previously assumed," Zetsche said. "At the same time they have more respect for our achievements than we thought."

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Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio

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danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
2/2/2016 | 11:50:37 AM
Chips
Based on this guy's previous experience developing chip architecture at both AMD and Apple one would suspect he will be working on a chip for Tesla cars. Maybe hardware technology will be able to revolutionize autopilot with efficient instructure sets. 
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
2/1/2016 | 5:44:54 PM
Tesla a potential host for the software-driven vehicle
It's foolish to talk all the time about the software-driven data center when what we need is a software-driven vehicile, one that can have defensive driving embedded for avoiding accidents. Tesla is a likely host for such software-driven driving. Granted, it's GPS driven as well.
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