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Tesla hires sensor expert from Apple to develop next generation Autopilot sensor suite


Last month we reported exclusively that Tesla hired high-profile microprocessor engineer Jim Keller to lead the company’s Autopilot hardware team and today Electrek has learned of a significant addition to this team; the hire of a sensor expert from Apple.

For the past 3 years, Andrew Graham was a Motion Sensor Engineer at Apple before joining Tesla’s Autopilot engineer staff last week.

Graham joins the sensor team just as Tesla is developing its next generation Autopilot sensor suite to enable fully autonomous vehicles.

Tesla’s current sensor suite, which has been installed on every Model S unit built since Q4 2014, consists of a forward-looking camera, a radar, and 360 degree sonar sensors. The system allowed the automaker to introduce several semi-autonomous features such as Autosteer, Autopark and more recently Summon, as well as several active safety features like Auto Emergency Braking.

Tesla already proved it can deliver some interesting features with its first generation hardware suite, but the system has its limits and can’t deliver a fully autonomous vehicle. That’s why the company hired Keller, Graham and several other sensor and computer vision experts to build a new future-proof hardware suite capable of delivering fully self-driving cars.

Mobileye, a key supplier for Tesla’s Autopilot, is developing a system they hope will be able to allow just that.  Their next generation system is an obvious evolution from Tesla’s current Autopilot suite with simply more cameras and processing power: 8 cameras, one radar and ultrasonic around the vehicle.

Here’s a visualisation of what the new sensor suite can see:mobileye_360_8_cameras

Andrew Graham, Tesla’s latest hire, has an extensive academic background. He holds two bachelor’s degrees from Virginia Tech, one in mathematic and one in mechanical engineering, as well as Master and a PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.

Since earning his PhD in 2010, Graham has been a sensor research engineer, which of course was his field of study, first for Bosch and then for Apple before joining Tesla last week.

Graham is now apparently part of the so-called “poaching war” over engineering talent between Apple and Tesla. Several Apple alumni are working on Tesla’s senior engineering staff, including Doug Field, former VP of Mac Engineering at Apple and now VP of Engineering at Tesla, and Rich Heley, former Director of Alloy Engineering at Apple and now VP of Products at Tesla. Outside of hardware engineering, Apple’s former iOS Map lead, Bill Chen, is now leading Tesla’s Maps and Navigation efforts.

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Avatar for Fred Lambert Fred Lambert

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