Tesla and AMD

Last week, CNBC broke news that Tesla is working hand-in-globe with AMD to design a new computational platform for self-driving cars.

To some extent, this is just more daily drama from inside the tiny world of autonomous vehicles in Silicon Valley. It seems like every few days a new partnership forms, or an old partnership frays, or an acquisition is announced.

The Tesla-AMD relationship does have a few interesting aspects, though:

  1. The relationship seems to depend largely on the presence of Jim Keller, an AMD veteran who now heads up Tesla’s Autopilot Hardware Engineering. I had never heard of Keller before, but the man has his own Wikipedia page as a hardware engineer, so I take it he’s a big deal.
  2. AMD had pretty much been out of the self-driving car game until now, at least publicly. This seems to put them right into the thick of it. And unlike Intel or NVIDIA, AMD specializes in both CPU and GPU design, so it has the potential to compete on both ends of the spectrum.
  3. Tesla had a public and messy breakup with Mobileye, which is now owned by Intel. Tesla currently uses the NVIDIA DRIVE PX 2 in its production vehicles. Now Tesla seems to be trying to singlehandedly turn AMD into an autonomous vehicle chip provider. Should we expect an NVIDIA-Xilinx partnership next?

Also, Keller is a Penn State alumnus, and the Nittany Lions are currently ranked #4 in both the AP and the Coaches’ Polls. Good time to be from State College.

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