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Apple Hires an Artificial Intelligence Expert From Nvidia. Is He Going to Work on Self-Driving Cars?

An artificial intelligence expert who knows how to make cars drive themselves now works for Apple.

Michael Buckner/Getty Images

In what may be another sign that Apple is getting serious about cars, the company has hired Jonathan Cohen, the director of deep learning for chipmaker Nvidia. Nvidia is best known for its graphics products used for computer games, but it has recently been pushing into the world of autonomous vehicles.

Cohen reported the change on his LinkedIn page.

Deep learning, as Re/code has documented, is a branch of artificial intelligence prized at tech companies for its ability to train computers to process patterns in large reams of visual data. Lately, Nvidia has used the technique for cars. The company sells its chips — graphic processing units, or GPUs — to car makers, which use it to power cameras and radar that enable vehicles to drive autonomously.

Apple is building up a sizable internal operation around cars. Last week, CEO Tim Cook said that a “massive change” is coming to the industry.

“This is a big hire for Apple,” Chris Nicholson, co-founder of deep learning startup “Nvidia’s GPUs are being used to power auto-pilot systems in cars, so the implications are pretty clear.”

We reached out to Apple and Nvidia for comment, and will update if we hear back.

Nvidia primarily provides computing hardware for the gaming industry, but it has ramped up its automotive division. In its most recent fiscal year, the company said its automotive unit reached $183 million in revenue. Cohen has run its deep learning group since 2008.

Apple currently uses deep learning tech for things like its maps and voice recognition with Siri. Cohen’s new LinkedIn bio doesn’t spell out what he’s up to. “I build software”, it reads.

Here he is at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show discussing how Nvidia’s tech is used in self-driving cars:

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