Tesla Autopilot Head Resigns After Five Years

Image credit: Tesla

Big loss for Autopilot development? Tesla AI and Autopilot leader Andrej Karpathy confirms he has parted ways with the EV maker

The man who led the development of Tesla’s Autopilot driving assistance system has left the building.

Andrej Karpathy, Tesla’s Director of AI and the leader of the Autopilot Vision team, announced on Twitter that he had resigned. He revealed he had no other job lined up, prompting speculation if his departure was voluntary.

CEO Elon Musk however thanked Karpathy for his work in response. Yet most observers agree that Karpathy’s departure is a blow for Tesla’s Autopilot ambitions.

Image credit: Tesla
Image credit: Tesla

Karpathy departure

It should be noted that Andrej Karpathy in March this year was named as one of the top ten ‘AI Influencers to Follow in 2022‘ by Analytics Insight.

“It’s been a great pleasure to help Tesla towards its goals over the last 5 years and a difficult decision to part ways,” Karpathy wrote on Twitter. “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.”

Karpathy tweeted that while he had no concrete plans for what’s next, he would spend more time visiting his long-term passions around technical work in AI, open source and education.

Karpathy led a team of senior machine learning scientists and engineers, all of whom reported directly to Karpathy.

Are we ready for ready for driverless transport?

Office closure

Karpathy revealed on Twitter in March that he had taken a months-long sabbatical from Tesla, but seemed to have returned to work in early May.

Before Tesla, Karpathy held a role as a researcher at OpenAI, the artificial intelligence non-profit that was founded in San Francisco in 2015 by Elon Musk, Sam Altman, and others after they pledged $1 billion.

Karpathy’s departure follows the closure of a Tesla office in San Mateo, California, where data annotation teams were helping to improve the company’s driver assistance technology.

It was reported 229 people were dismissed from that office.

Karpathy however worked out of Tesla’s former headquarters in Palo Alto, California and reported directly to Elon Musk.

Autopilot issues

It is no secret that Tesla is facing challenges with its Autopilot system, as well as its experimental self-driving package known as the ‘Full Self-Driving Beta system’.

Last month the Federal vehicle safety regulator in the US (NHTSA) said it was upgrading its investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot driving assistance system – the step taken before the agency determines a recall.

Tesla vehicles have accounted for nearly 70 percent of reported crashes involving advanced driver-assistance systems since June 2021, according to federal figures released last month, but officials warned against drawing any safety conclusions.

Over hyped?

Musk has aggressively hyped Tesla’s driver assistance system (Autopilot) and self-driving technology for years now.

CNBC reported that in late 2016, Musk promised Tesla fans a self-driving car that’s capable of driving from Los Angeles to New York without “the need for a single touch” by the end of 2017.

Then in 2019, Musk raised billions of dollars for Tesla by promising investors the company would have 1 million “robotaxi ready” cars on the road by the end of 2020.

In July 2020, Elon Musk said that Tesla was “very close” to achieving level 5 autonomous driving technology.

Level 5 is the holy grail of autonomous driving technology, as level 5 vehicles will not require human intervention, and need for a human drivers is eliminated.

Indeed, it is said that level 5 cars won’t even have steering wheels or acceleration/braking pedals.

These cars will be free from geofencing, and will be able to drive anywhere, and do anything that normal car with a human driver can do.

Tesla cars currently operate at a level-two, which requires the driver to remain alert and ready to act, with hands on the wheel.