Car Industry

Tesla's head of Autopilot software quits in under 6 months

His replacement is a pretty talented person in his own right.


Employee churn has been an issue at Tesla for years, even before the Model S debuted. It's rearing its ugly head again as the head of its Autopilot software team heads for new opportunities.

After less than six months, Chris Lattner left his position as the head of Tesla's Autopilot software team. "Chris just wasn't the right fit for Tesla, and we've decided to make a change," a Tesla spokesperson said via email. "We wish him the best." Lattner himself took to Twitter to say largely the same thing.

His replies are filled with offers to go work for other companies, so I think Lattner is going to end up doing just fine.

Tesla took no time figuring out a replacement. It has hired Andrej Karpathy as Director of AI and Autopilot Vision. Karpathy, an expert in computer vision and a former research scientist at OpenAI, will report directly to Elon Musk. In a statement, Tesla noted that Karpathy's PhD work at Stanford involved using neural nets to provide complex descriptions of images.

Autopilot is a suite of active and passive safety systems that grants Tesla's vehicles partial autonomy, largely limited to holding a lane at highway speeds and providing automatic emergency braking. The system was updated in late 2016 with additional cameras and sensors, which Tesla claims is enough to provide full vehicle autonomy, although that has not yet been activated on cars carrying this updated hardware.

A few months prior to that update, Tesla lost Mobileye as a supplier for Autopilot components, due in part to disagreements over a fatal accident. Autopilot was in the news yesterday after the National Transportation Safety Board released its report for that crash, claiming that Autopilot performed as intended and the collision was the driver's fault and not the system's.