Andrej Karpathy, the director of AI and Tesla’s Autopilot Vision team is leaving his role
Andrej Karpathy, the director of AI and Tesla’s Autopilot Vision team, announced on Twitter late this afternoon that he is leaving his role.
Tesla already recalled “full self-driving,” an advanced version of Autopilot intended for city streets, earlier this year as it was not coming to complete stops at stop signs. The flaw was fixed with an over-the-air update, a recall fix that’s less onerous for automakers and consumers.
“Full self-driving” has been celebrated by many of Tesla’s ardent fans. But many of their friends and loved ones have been less enthusiastic, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released data this month showing that Teslas using its driver-assist technology has been involved in 273 crashes. “Full self-driving” can drive in a jerky, uncomfortable manner. In some cases, it steers, brakes, and accelerates smoothly. Other times, its flaws can be unsettling. Tesla warns drivers that they “may do the wrong thing at the worst time.”
Karpathy was an advocate for Tesla’s unique approach to developing autonomous driving features. The automaker relies on cameras to perceive the world, rather than using additional sensors like radar and lidar, which are the norm among nearly all its competitors, including Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise.
“Is that person distracted and on their phone? Are they going to walk into your lane?” Karpathy said in 2019. “Those answers are only found in vision.” Karpathy was already highly regarded among artificial intelligence experts before joining Tesla in 2017. He left a position as a research scientist at OpenAI, a research laboratory in that Musk was initially involved. Karpathy also created Stanford’s first class on deep learning, a trendy type of artificial intelligence that’s seen huge gains in recent years. Karpathy studied artificial intelligence at the University of Toronto with Geoffrey Hinton, a legend in the field.
In a tweet, Karpathy said, “It’s been a great pleasure to help Tesla towards its goals over the last 5 years and a difficult decision to part ways. In that time, Autopilot graduated from lane keeping to city streets and I look forward to seeing the exceptionally strong Autopilot team continue that momentum.”
In response, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that it has been an “honor working with you.”Karpathy’s exit comes at a critical juncture for Tesla’s Autopilot unit. The National Highway and Safety Administration is investigating the technology, alleging that Tesla’s Autopilot software was involved in more than 200 crashes since July of last year. The federal agency’s probe may result in a recall of Tesla vehicles that come with the Autopilot function.
Just two weeks ago, Bloomberg reported that Tesla laid off about 200 workers in its Autopilot division and closed an entire office in San Mateo, California.
Karpathy joined Tesla in 2017, taking over the top AI job after former Apple executive Chris Lattner’s six-month stint in the post. As AI chief, Karpathy has overseen the growth and development of Tesla’s controversial Autopilot driver assist software, though the software is currently under investigation from the federal government after Tesla using Autopilot crashed into parked emergency vehicles.
Karpathy’s departure follows layoffs of nearly 200 Tesla employees focused on Autopilot.The national highway and safety administration is investigating the technology, alleging