Former Apple Chip Designer Jim Keller Joins Tesla's Autopilot Hardware Engineering Team

Jan 29, 2016 02:04 PM EST | John Nassivera

The talent war between Tesla and Apple continues, with the electric automaker announcing Thursday that it has quietly hired prominent microprocessor engineer Jim Keller as Vice President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering.

"Jim will bring together the best internal and external hardware technologies to develop the safest, most advanced autopilot systems in the world," Tesla told Electrek in a statement.

Keller's work at Apple included leading the creation of the tech giant's A-series processor, which were introduced in the iPad and iPhone 4, PCWorld reported. He previously worked at chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) in the late '90s, where he helped design the company's K7 processors and the K8 core, which was the first 64-bit consumer desktop chip.

He returned to AMD from Apple in 2012 and spearheaded the development of the company's Zen processor architecture in order to take on Intel in the high-end computing battle. However, Keller left AMD last September, and the geek community has been wondering what he would do ever since.

Thursday's announcement follows several months after Tesla CEO Elon Musk referred to Apple as a "graveyard" of people who used to work for the electric carmaker, which would make hiring Keller a major victory for Tesla, The Silicon Valley Business Journal noted.

The move also follows less than a week after Apple veteran Steve Zadesky, who is heading its electric car project was reported to be leaving the company.

Tesla has been looking for "hardcore" engineers to join the "Autopilot program" for the past year, especially over the past few months, in which it lost some engineers to companies like Google, drone maker Skydio and aftermarket drive assist firm Cruise, Electrek reported.

While the project needs plenty of processing power, the company did not say that Keller will focus on in-house microprocessors while working on the project. Keller is also the latest Apple veteran to join Tesla's senior engineering staff, which includes Doug Field, the company's current VP of Engineering, and Rich Heley, Tesla's current VP of Products.

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