Tesla Autopilot Team Layoffs Followed By Announcement Of Project Leader's Departure

After five years with Tesla, Andrej Karpathy, head of artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous driving at Tesla, has announced his departure.

Karpathy announced the big decision in a tweet on July 13 local time, "I've had the pleasure of helping Tesla achieve its goals over the last 5 years and it was a tough decision to leave. In that time, Autopilot technology has evolved from lane keeping to autonomous city streets and I believe the exceptionally strong Autopilot team will continue to be strong."

He then added that no final decision has been made on where to go, but hopes to focus on artificial intelligence technology, open source and education.

Andrej Karpathy, Head of Artificial Intelligence and Autopilot at Tesla

In response to Karpathy's departure, Tesla CEO Elon Musk left a message saying, "Thank you for all you have given to Tesla. It was an honor to have worked with you."

Tesla did not announce a successor, some foreign media speculate that Ashok Elluswamy, director of Autopilot software, and Milan Kovac, director of Autopilot engineering, may be expected to replace Karpathy.

As early as March this year, Karpathy said he was about to embark on a four-month-long sabbatical. In other words, Karpathy, who announced his departure this time, has just finished his extra-long vacation.

Publicly available information shows that Karpathy, who has a PhD in computer vision from Stanford University, jumped from the nonprofit artificial intelligence research firm OpenAI to Tesla as a neural network and computer vision expert in June 2017. He has since risen quickly and was promoted to senior director of artificial intelligence at Tesla, responsible for artificial intelligence and autonomous driving, becoming one of Tesla's core figures, reporting directly to Musk.

According to Reuters, Karpathy has played a key role in the development of Tesla's AI and Autopilot technology. During his tenure, Tesla's driver assistance system has made great strides, though the technology has not lived up to Musk's former promises.

In late 2016, Musk promised that by the end of 2017, Tesla would be able to drive from Los Angeles to New York on Autopilot, and in 2019, Musk again promised that by the end of 2020, the company would have one million self-driving cabs on the road. He also said "sometimes I may not be on time, but eventually I'll get it done."

So far, however, Musk has failed to deliver on any of his promises. Tesla's fully automated driving software (FSD) is still in beta testing. Musk revealed on Twitter on July 14 that the beta version of FSD V10.3, which begins internal testing tomorrow and public testing next week, is being optimized for complex left-turn scenarios.

On the other hand, the regulatory investigation into Tesla Autopilot has been protracted.

In addition, Musk's layoff plans have spilled over to the Autopilot team. As recently as July 12 local time, records from the California Department of Employment Development show that Tesla permanently closed its office in San Mateo, California, and laid off 229 employees. This office was part of Tesla's Autopilot team, which worked to add tags to Autopilot data involving the ability of Autopilot algorithms to identify objects.


 


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