And the war wages on. Tesla and Apple have been openly battling for more than a year now. These two companies are not direct competitors — at least, not yet — but the notion that Apple is working its way toward releasing an electric car, or at least toward diving head-first into the automotive industry in some capacity, is the worst kept secret in tech. Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk said so.
As a result, Apple and Tesla have developed something of a rivalry that has manifested itself in the form of trading talent. Or should we say, stealing talent from each other. Both companies have been hiring staff away from each other for quite some time now, and Tesla’s latest score could be one of its most significant victories to date.
According to many experts in and around the auto industry, the key to the future of transportation doesn’t lie in aesthetic designs, drivetrains or even powertrains. No, the future of cars lies in software and the systems that power it.
Tesla already has a big lead in this key area — think about how far ahead of the pack Tesla is when a Model S owner can go to sleep one night and wake up in the morning with a car that has been remotely updated to include autonomous driving features. But just as Apple wasn’t satisfied with farming the architecture of its microprocessors out to third parties, it appears as though Tesla wants more control over its chips as well. As it turns out, one man who helped Apple achieve its goal of developing its own A series processors now works for Tesla.
Tesla has confirmed on Friday that it has hired Jim Keller as Vice President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering. Those who follow the industry closely may recall that Keller moved over to Apple in 2008 when the company acquired P.A. Semi, the fabless chipmaker that ended up designing the company’s A series chips that now power iPhones, iPads, iPods and the Apple TV.
“Jim Keller is joining Tesla as Vice President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering,” Tesla said in a statement to Electrek. Jim will bring together the best internal and external hardware technologies to develop the safest, most advanced autopilot systems in the world.”
Of note, Keller cannot be counted among the engineers who have been poached directly from Apple. Prior to being hired by Tesla, the executive worked at AMD for a period of time.