Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been promising functional fully automated driving for the past few years, but for now Tesla's self-driving system still doesn't meet Musk's expectations. Musk's latest estimate was that the FSD would be available in the U.S. by the end of this year, but a new development has dealt a blow to Tesla's plans.
AI and autonomous driving are key components of what Musk calls "Master Plan Part 3," so it makes sense for Tesla to bet its future on these technologies. As critical as they are, they were both put on hold four months after Tesla's head of AI, Andrej Karpathy, announced a leave of absence.
Elon Musk responded to a question about the Canadian FSD deployment with a "by the way" tweet that showed he understood how unsettling the situation was. Less than three hours later, Karpathy tweeted his excitement, while explaining the situation.
"After almost 5 years at Tesla, I needed to take some time off and travel. I'm especially excited to have time to resharpen my technical edge and train some neural networks! Although I've missed all the bots and GPU/Dojo clusters and look forward to having them within reach again," Karpathy tweeted.
However, this appears to be a blow to Tesla's efforts to crack fully automated driving this year. While Tesla has assembled a strong AI team, Karpathy has played a major role in Tesla's efforts to crack fully automated driving. The four-month sabbatical may seem like a brief delay in Tesla's plans, but investors and fans alike are worried. Because this isn't the first time a Tesla executive has gone "missing" after a sabbatical.
Doug Field, former senior vice president of engineering at Tesla, left in 2018, allegedly to "recharge and spend time with his family." A few months later, it was revealed that Field would not be returning, as he returned to Apple. Three years later, Fields was named Ford's chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer.
Andrej Karpathy is the senior director of Tesla's AI division and leads the team responsible for neural networks for the Autopilot program. Prior to joining Tesla, Karpathy was a research scientist at OpenAI, working on technologies such as computer vision, model building and reinforcement learning.