Company / division: AMD
CNBC reports that Tesla is using AMD “intellectual property” in its work on chips to power the autonomous driving systems in its cars. Though investors seem to have taken that as a sign that AMD is supplying Tesla with chips, the CNBC report doesn’t explicitly say that, but does quote the CEO of AMD foundry spinoff GlobalFoundries as saying it’s working directly with Tesla on chips, which may suggest AMD isn’t totally in the loop. The CNBC and other coverage has noted that former AMD chip engineers are now abundant at Tesla, though the company has used Nvidia rather than AMD chips in the past. It’s also interesting to see Tesla contemplating such an architectural shift when it’s claimed that the innards of cars it’s selling today based on its existing architecture are capable of running full autonomy in future. The idea of Tesla increasingly designing its own chips would certainly be in keeping with the work led by Autopilot head Jim Keller when he spearheaded the A-series chip initiative at Apple – companies truly serious about software need to design their own hardware right down to the chip layer, an idea reinforced by this week’s iPhone 8 chip performance benchmarks. But the news also makes clear how unsettled the chip vendor picture still is in the automotive space, with Intel clearly finally gaining some traction alongside others who have done better in the early running.
This is a good summary of the way in which Intel is now being challenged not just in mobile by ARM architectures but in AI by Nvidia and AMD too. That means that Intel is now falling behind in the two most important new chip use cases, not just one, and that its big bets on IoT and wearables will likely end up looking marginal next to AI as the next big opportunity for chip vendors. Add in cars, where Nvidia is also doing very well, and suddenly things start to look pretty bleak for Intel. There’s a great deeper dive here on the WSJ too.