There were some significant changes to Tesla’s Autopilot leadership today.

Earlier this year, Tesla’s head of computer vision, David Nistér, left to make high-definition maps at Nvidia after Tesla hired the creator of the Swift programming language, Chris Lattner, from Apple to lead the Autopilot software team.

Just 6 months later, Lattner is no longer with Tesla and his responsibilities have been divided between Jim Keller, who was already the head of the Autopilot’s hardware team, and a new hire.

The new hire is Andrej Karpathy, the new head of AI and Autopilot Vision – first reported by Techcrunch. The scientist, who most recently was a research scientist at Elon Musk’s OpenAI, is being described as “one of the world’s leading experts in computer vision and deep learning.

It’s not new for Musk to move high-level employees between his companies and it even happened with the Autopilot team before, like when Robert Rose, a former software director at SpaceX, ended up briefly leading the Autopilot team before the launch of version 7.0.

Tesla sent us the following statement about Karpathy:

“Andrej Karpathy, one of the world’s leading experts in computer vision and deep learning, is joining Tesla as Director of AI and Autopilot Vision, reporting directly to Elon Musk. Andrej has worked to give computers vision through his work on ImageNet, as well as imagination through the development of generative models, and the ability to navigate the internet with reinforcement learning. He was most recently a Research Scientist at OpenAI.

Andrej completed his computer vision PhD at Stanford University, where he demonstrated the ability to derive complex descriptions of images using a deep neural net. For example, identifying not simply that there is a cat in a given picture, but that it is an orange, spotted cat, riding on a skateboard with red wheels on brown hardwood flooring (http://cs.stanford.edu/people/karpathy/main.pdf). He also created and taught “Convolutional Neural Networks for Visual Recognition,” the first and still leading deep learning course at Stanford.”

You know it’s a good hire when even the competition agrees:

The company also commented on Lattner’s departure. A spokesperson sent us the following statement:

“Chris just wasn’t the right fit for Tesla, and we’ve decided to make a change. We wish him the best.”

We have reached out to Lattner for a comment and we will update if we get one. Update: Lattner tweeted:

While Karpathy is reporting directly to Musk on ‘AI and Autopilot Vision’, Lattner’s role as ‘VP of Autopilot Software’ was broader and now Jim Keller will oversee both Autopilot hardware and software.

Tesla confirmed:

“Andrej will work closely with Jim Keller, who now has overall responsibility for Autopilot hardware and software.”

As we previously reported, Tesla quietly hired legendary chip architect Jim Keller from AMD as new “Vice-President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering” last year and several more chip architects have since joined the company – leading us to believe that Tesla is looking to more closely develop hardware and software when it comes to its Autopilot program.

It’s now interesting to see Keller’s role expand within the Autopilot program.

About the Author

Fred Lambert's favorite gear