Elon Musk has revealed that Tesla is developing its own custom artificial intelligence (AI) chip to support the company’s next generation of self-driving technology.
Speaking at the Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference in Long Beach, California on Thursday night: an industry event attended by experts in the field of machine learning and computational neuroscience, Musk, joined by Tesla’s Autopilot and AI heads, was heard talking about the company’s upcoming AI chips.
The serial tech entrepreneur spoke of “Jim” and his efforts on developing custom AI hardware for Tesla. “Jim is developing specialized AI hardware that we think will be the best in the world.” said Musk. He was, of course, speaking about Jim Keller, the legendary chip engineer and former lead architect for AMD and Apple who joined Tesla in 2016 as the company’s Vice President of Autopilot Hardware. Musk, alongside Tesla’s Director of AI Andrej Karpathy, Keller, and Bloomberg Beta’s Shivon Zilis, a VC firm, spoke on a panel about AI.
Musk has long talked about his plans to achieve full autonomy in self-driving Teslas in the last year, albeit optimistic. The company dispelled rumors of a potential partnership with Global Foundaries, the parent company for chip-maker AMD, on the development of an AI self-driving chip. “Tesla has not committed to working with us on any autonomous driving technology or product,” said a Tesla spokesperson in September.
We now learn that Tesla has been developing AI hardware on its own. But as the company continues to make advancements on its Tesla Vision suite and Autopilot feature for its current Model S and Model X fleet – Tesla’s Semi truck will also include Autopilot or “convoy” technology – while pushing the industry forward on building fully autonomous vehicles, bringing development of an AI chip in house might give the company an edge over competitors that are also promising self-driving cars.
Tesla currently uses Nvidia’s hardware to power its driving-assist features. The company has plans to activate Full Self-Driving capabilities, an option for Model S and Model X buyers that promises to, one day, navigate a vehicle without human intervention.
Musk, alongside Karpathy, was captured on video by an attendee at last night’s NIPS 2017.