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Tesla’s Chip Architect Peter Bannon Gives the Tang Lecture on October 3

Peter Bannon

When alumnus Peter Bannon, the guy in charge of Tesla’s chip architecture and part of the team designing the self-driving computer/car, steps to the podium at the Great Hall in the Old Chapel on October 3 at about 4:00 p.m., it will be a very big deal. Bannon has variously been called “a chip architecture titan,” “an inventor named on dozens of patents related to processors,” and “one of two of the most sought after processor architects working today.”

Because of all his achievements, Bannon will give the 20th annual presentation of the prestigious 2019 Shirley and Ting-Wei Tang Lecture on October 3.

Bannon is a 1984 graduate of UMass Amherst, where he received a B.S. Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. His lecture will focus on 35 years of computer design, touching on highlights of designing VAX, Alpha, Itanium, PowerPC, and ARM processors. Some details of the Tesla Full Self-driving Computer will also be covered.

Bannon is currently vice president of Low Voltage and Silicon Engineering at Tesla. He leads the team that created the Full Self-driving Computer that is currently shipping in Tesla vehicles.

Prior to his position at Tesla, Bannon was the lead architect on the first 32b ARM CPU used in the iPhone 5 and built the team that created the first 64b ARM processor in the iPhone 5s. He has been designing computing systems for almost four decades at Apple, Intel, PA Semi, and Digital Equipment Corporation.

Bannon was also prominently featured in a recent YouTube video in conjunction with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who introduced Tesla’s Full Self-driving Computer that will enable the company’s software updates to work.  In the video, Musk called on Bannon as the person in charge of Tesla’s chip architecture. As Bannon said, “I’d like to point out that this is actually a pretty small computer. It fits behind the glovebox, between the glovebox and the firewall unit. It does not take up half your trunk…There are two fully independent computers onboard.”

When Bannon was hired by Tesla in 2016, the hiring was also big news in the industry, according to a report in Electrek titled Tesla hires yet another chip architecture titan out of Apple’s PA Semi, feeding the rumor that it plans to design its own silicon. In the article, writer Fred Lambert also called Bannon an inventor on dozens of patents related to processors and one of two of the most sought after processor architects working today.

All of Peter Bannon's revolutionary first-hand knowledge will be on exhibit for the lucky audience at the Old Chapel come October 3. (September 2019)