Tesla co-founder Marc Tarpenning: “Self-driving technology is clearly on the cusp of a major breakthrough”

Marc Tarpenning

Tesla co-founder Marc Tarpenning has kept somewhat of a low-profile since leaving Tesla in 2008 after an internal power-struggle saw his co-founder Martin Eberhard ousted as CEO and Elon Musk took over. After being an important part of what arguably started the electric car rEVolution, he mostly stayed away from the EV industry until he invested, alongside Eberhard, in electric motorcycle maker Alta Motors in 2014.

Other than the Alta Motors investment, since leaving Tesla he mainly took mentor and advisory roles, which he did again this week when he confirmed having joined the advisory board of ‘self-driving vehicles for industry’ company: Clearpath Robotics.

Clearpath Robotics is based in Kitchener, Ontario, and was founded in 2008 with the interesting vision to “automate the world’s dullest, dirtiest, and deadliest jobs.”

The company was born out of the University of Waterloo where most of the founders and executives were studying engineering. Clearpath has since been developing a wide range of robots and drones, some of which you can see in a gallery below.

It has been growing steadily and the startup is now supplying robots to a myriad of clients including the US Army, Honda, GE, Microsoft, NASA and more.

In a press release, Clearpath wrote that Tarpenning is joining to “provide the Clearpath leadership team with entrepreneurial and technical insight.” Clearpath CEO Matt Rendall:

“We’re thrilled to have Marc on our advisory board and work with him on a regular basis. Marc brings experience and insight that will help to guide our team as we accelerate the growth of our business and enter new markets with self-driving vehicle technology.”


Clearpath’s Grizzly robots working in the snow

Tarpenning also commented on the announcement:

Self-driving technology is clearly on the cusp of a major breakthrough. I’m happy to offer my assistance to Clearpath who, much like Tesla, has ambitious goals for making a meaningful impact on society,”

We have not heard Tarpenning talk much about vehicle automation over the years and he likely wasn’t at Tesla during any of the development of the company’s Autopilot program, but when learning about how he and Eberhard came to the conclusion that the time for electric cars is coming and how to help make it happen, it becomes clear that the man has incredible insights into future technology trends.

Here’s a fascinating presentation (long but worth it) Marc gave about the thought process behind founding Tesla and creating the Roadster:


Clearpath offers a wide range of robots including platform robots similar to the ones found in Amazon’s distribution centers, but also more high-tech unmanned ground vehicles and drones.

Here’s a gallery of a few of Clearpath’s robots:

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