Tesla is working with AMD to build a custom-made AI chip

Yolanda Curtis
September 22, 2017

According to a new report, Tesla is now developing its own chips for self-driving cars.

CNBC, quoting sources, claimed that the progress toward building a custom Tesla AI chip had reached the vehicle maker, which has received back "samples of the first implementation of its processor" and is now running tests on it.

On Wednesday Sanjay Jha, CEO of AMD spin-off GlobalFoundries, said at the company's technology conference in Santa Clara, California, that the company is working directly with Tesla. Company chief Elon Musk once said that Tesla aims to have fully autonomous cars by 2019 - we'll just have to wait and see if it can stick to that timeline.

AMD shares closed up 62 cents, or nearly 5%, at $13.74, following CNBC's headline, and are up another 87 cents, over 6%, at $14.62, in late trading. In a subsequent statement GlobalFoundries denied that Jha had confirmed that the company was working directly with Tesla, and that it doesn't comment on customers or potential customers.

If tests prove successful it would mean Tesla would have greater vertical integration, with its own tech in the AI processor, rather than being so reliant upon Nvidia GPUs.

Jim Keller, the legendary engineer in AMD's ranks is reportedly involved in the deal, along with 50 engineers at Tesla.

In a move to bolster its own self-driving technology ambitions, Intel acquired MobileEye for $15.3 billion back in March this year. Tesla has brought in several AMD veterans after Keller was hired.

Tesla now uses NVIDIA chips for its limited self-driving functionality. Previously Tesla used chips from Mobileye, but the two companies parted ways past year after an accident involving a Mobileye-powered Tesla.

It comes a day after Intel has announced it is teaming up with with Alphabet's Waymo self-driving unit.

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