Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, announced, in conjunction with AMD (the silicon chip maker), their new A.I. driven chip hardware at the NIPS (Neural Information Processing Systems) machine learning conference. This is widely seen as a way to slowly walk away from them utilizing Nvidia chips in the near future.
Tesla is getting closer to having its own chip for handling autonomous driving tasks in its cars.
The carmaker has received back samples of the first implementation of its processor and is now running tests on it, said a source familiar with the matter.
The effort to build its own chip is in line with Tesla’s push to be vertically integrated and decrease reliance on other companies.
But Tesla isn’t completely going it alone in chip development, according to the source, and will build on top of AMD intellectual property.
For the event in Long Beach, Calif., Musk brought with him Tesla’s vice president of hardware, Jim Keller. Musk talked about the company’s AI hardware in the course of providing information about what Keller, a former AMD chip architect, is working on.
“Jim is developing specialized AI hardware that we think will be the best in the world,” Musk said, according to one person who was at the event, which was not streamed live.
“Jim” is Jim Keller, a well-known chip engineer who was lead architect on a range of silicon at AMD and Apple and joined Tesla in 2016. Keller later joined Musk on a panel discussing AI at the Tesla Party alongside Andrej Karpathy, Tesla’s Director of AI and chaired by Shivon Zilis, a partner and founding member at Bloomberg Beta, a VC firm.
Silicon Valley Business Journal
Tesla’s move to build its own chips is a likely shift away from Nvidia. The company currently relies on Nvidia chips to power the large, touchscreen infotainment systems in all of its cars. Nvidia chips also power Tesla’s Autopilot 2 system, which is capable of some autonomous driving functions.
Tesla isn’t the only Silicon Valley company to explore custom chips. Apple has already placed its own chips into its smartphones, while Google has built its own to run its cloud AI services.