Jim Keller, Tesla’s former head of Autopilot hardware and the designer of Tesla’s Self-Driving Computer chip, says that he is confident about solving autonomous driving after working at Tesla.

We first exclusively reported on Tesla quietly hiring Keller, a legendary chip designer, from AMD back in 2016 and we were fairly excited by the implications of Tesla hiring such an important chip architect.

At the time, we speculated that Tesla could be looking into making its own silicon at some point – speculation that was further reinforced after Keller’s hiring was followed by a team of chip architects and executives from AMD also joining Tesla.

Finally, our suspicions were confirmed two years later when Elon Musk confirmed that Tesla is working on its own new AI chip.

Keller was leading the program, along with several other hardware responsibilities at the automaker.

It eventually led to the Tesla Self-Driving Computer unveiled last year, but Keller left in 2018 after having designed the chip.

The engineer now works at Intel and he hasn’t publicly commented about his work at Tesla until now.

He was interviewed on Lex Fridman’s AI podcast and had some very interesting comments about how he thinks autonomous driving is a problem that can be solved:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has set several timelines for Autopilot and Full Self-Driving progress and he missed almost all of them.

However, Keller had an interesting comment to put the timeline misses into perspective:

“Progress disappoints in the short run, surprises in the long run.”

The engineer appeared fairly confident in Tesla and Musk’s data-based approach to self-driving and that they will solve the problem.

Musk’s latest timeline is achieving a full self-driving system by the end of the year with driver supervision and phase out driver supervision as safety improves over the next few years.

Electrek’s Take

That was a very interesting discussion. Well worth a watch, like almost all of Fridman’s podcasts. I highly recommend subscribing.

Keller and Fridman were obviously disagreeing about the timeline for self-driving and I think they both have very valid points.

Fridman is skeptical about the short-term prospects of self-driving, especially when it comes to the idea of an artificial driver, but he clearly respected Keller’s more optimistic view.

I was impressed by Keller’s answers and confidence in Tesla delivering a self-driving. I also liked his comments about working for Elon.

Like we reported when he left Tesla, there’s no point in reading too much into his departure since he has been somewhat of a mercenary in the chip business – moving from one company to the next after designing a specific chip. Aside maybe for his extended stint at PA Semi, which became part of Apple.

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