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Tesla’s AI chief is leaving, adding to Autopilot upheaval

Tesla’s AI chief is leaving, adding to Autopilot upheaval

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After a sabbatical of several months, Tesla’s top AI exec and one of the architects of its driver-assistance system Autopilot is leaving the company.

Andrej Karpathy, who joined Tesla in 2017 as a research Make (e.g. Mazda) engineer, announced his departure in a series of tweets on Wednesday. A senior AI director, he led the Autopilot computer vision team that has been trying for years to make the company’s cars autonomous.

After working with Tesla for the past five years, Karpathy said it was a “difficult decision to part ways” with the company. While this was going on, Autopilot advanced to city streets, and I hope the exceptionally strong Autopilot team keeps this momentum going.

Shares of Tesla fell 1.8 percent to $698.57 in New York at 9:45 a.m. on Thursday. This year, the stock has lost 34% of its value.

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Elon Musk’s Autopilot group has had a long history of turnover at the top, and this latest departure is just the latest in a long line. In 2019, Tesla’s CEO raised billions of dollars by predicting that the company would have 1 million autonomous vehicles on the road in 2020. Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, or FSD, systems still require drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times, unlike the shared network of driverless cars Musk described.

Dan Levy, a Credit Suisse analyst who has the equivalent of a buy rating on Tesla shares, believes that the departure of Karpathy, 35, reflects Tesla’s difficulties with FSD and robotaxis.

Tesla’s “show me” efforts in AV/robot taxi continue, according to a note from Levy to clients.

In March, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that Karpathy was taking a four-month sabbatical, and Karpathy tweeted that he was eager to return to the company. Musk thanked Karpathy for announcing that he was resigning from the company on Wednesday, and praised him for doing so.

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Regulators in the United States are paying closer attention to the use of Autopilot. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed last month that it had reviewed nearly 200 crashes involving vehicles using the technology and had taken one of its investigations into whether the system is defective to a higher level. Autopilot-equipped vehicles that abruptly brake at high speeds are the subject of another NHTSA defect investigation

With the reduction of the Autopilot team, Tesla has also had to make changes to its executive ranks. A Tesla office in San Mateo, California, was shuttered and 200 data-annotation employees were laid off in the last month.

Musk claimed a year ago that Karpathy, Ashok Elluswamy, and Milan Kovac shared responsibility for Autopilot, referring to the group’s leadership structure as a “knights of the round table.”

Autopilot upheaval will be exacerbated with departure of Tesla’s AI chief. This post was originally published by Autoblog on Thu, Jul 14, 2022 11:18:00 EDT. Use of feeds is subject to our terms and conditions.

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