As Tesla pushes towards its goal of building a self-driving car, it has emerged that the on-board artificial intelligence chip is being built upon AMD intellectual property, according to a source close to the project. The chip is being manufactured by GlobalFoundries, an AMD spin-off, which has a wafer supply agreement in place with AMD all the way through 2020.
The source has said that Tesla "has received back samples of the first implementation of its processor and is now running tests on it," according to CNBC.
At a GlobalFoundaries conference on Wednesday, the CEO, Sanjay Jha, said that Tesla was an example of a company that is working with fabricators. In a later statement, GlobalFoundaries said it doesn’t comment on customers or potential customers and denied that its CEO had said the company was working with Tesla.
It’s likely, however, that AMD and Tesla are working together based solely on some hires that Tesla has been making. Tesla silicon project is being headed by longtime chip architect Jim Keller who took over from Chris Lattner in June. Keller previously worked at AMD and Apple, particularly on the latter's A4 and A5 chips.
Under Keller’s leadership there are over 50 people - several of which are AMD veterans - including director Ganesh Venkataramanan, principal hardware engineer Bill McGee, and system circuit design lead Dan Bailey.
In the AI chip department, Tesla is playing catch-up. Alphabet has already built two generations of an AI chip, Microsoft is working on an AI chip for HoloLens, and Apple recently announced that the premium iPhone X includes an AI chip.