Tesla Autopilot Chief Karpathy to Depart

Tesla Autopilot with an inset photo of Andrej Karpathy
Tesla instrument panel featuring Autopilot technology by Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg News; Andrej Karpathy via Karpathy.ai

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Andrej Karpathy, Tesla Inc.’s top artificial intelligence executive and the director of its Autopilot self-driving system, is planning to depart the automaker.

The executive, who joined Tesla in 2017, announced his departure in a series of tweets on July 13. Karpathy led the computer-vision teams — overseeing the technology at the core of Autopilot — in addition to groups responsible for data labeling and deployment of the feature.

“It’s been a great pleasure to help Tesla towards its goals over the last five years and a difficult decision to part ways,” he said. “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.”

The departure adds to upheaval in Tesla’s executive ranks and follows a move to scale back the Autopilot group. Last month, Tesla laid off hundreds of workers from the division and closed an office in San Mateo, Calif., Bloomberg News reported at the time.

The executive said July 13 that he had “no concrete plans” for his next steps but that he would be revisiting his “long-term passions around technical work in AI, open source and education.”

The technology developed by Karpathy’s group is critical to Tesla’s fully self-driving system, known as FSD. That technology is a key part of Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s sales pitch for vehicles such as the Model S and future models like the Cybertruck. The full self-driving system is a $12,000 surcharge per vehicle, while the more limited Autopilot system is included with new Tesla models.

Karpathy went on sabbatical in March, but previously said he planned to return to Tesla this month. Musk thanked him on Twitter July 13 for his tenure at the company.

“It has been an honor working with you,” Musk said.

The Autopilot system has come under scrutiny from regulators. Last month, U.S. authorities escalated an investigation into whether the technology is defective and revealed that they’ve reviewed almost 200 crashes involving vehicles using Autopilot.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said a preliminary evaluation of how the system handles crash scenes with first-responder vehicles warrants further review and upgraded the probe. NHTSA opened the inquiry in 2021.

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