There are a lot of comings and goings in Tesla’s Autopilot team and that reached the highest level in leadership on several occasions. Again yesterday when Chris Lattner, VP of Autopilot Software, left and was replaced by an AI expert, Andrej Karpathy, and Jim Keller, VP of Autopilot Hardware (and now Software).
While several departures from the team made headlines recently, Lattner says that it grew by over 50% during his tenure as head of Autopilot software over the last 6 months.
When Lattner joined the automaker, Tesla’s former Autopilot Director, Sterling Anderson, left to form his own self-driving car company and several Autopilot engineers followed him.
As a respected leader in the broader software community through years of working on developer tools at Apple, Lattner was apparently able to turn things around on that front and help attract a lot of talent for Tesla’s Autopilot team.
He also listed several other accomplishments at Tesla in his updated résumé – even a few of them hinting at upcoming new “exciting features”:
- We evolved Autopilot for HW2 from its first early release (which had few features and was limited to 45mph on highways) to effectively parity with HW1, and surpassing it in some ways (e.g. silky smooth control).
- This required building and shipping numerous features for HW2, including: support for local roads, Parallel Autopark, High Speed Autosteer, Summon, Lane Departure Warning, Automatic Lane Change, Low Speed AEB, Full Speed Autosteer, Pedal Misapplication Mitigation, Auto High Beams, Side Collision Avoidance, Full Speed AEB, Perpendicular Parking, and ‘silky smooth’ performance.
- This was done by shipping a total of 7 major feature releases, as well as numerous minor releases to support factory, service, and other narrow markets.
- One of Tesla’s huge advantages in the autonomous driving space is that it has tens of thousands of cars already on the road. We built infrastructure to take advantage of this, allowing the collection of image and video data from this fleet, as well as building big data infrastructure in the cloud to process and use it.
- I defined and drove the feature roadmap, drove the technical architecture for future features, and managed the implementation for the next exciting features to come.
- I advocated for and drove a major rewrite of the deep net architecture in the vision stack, leading to significantly better precision, recall, and inference performance.
- I made massive improvements to internal infrastructure and processes that I cannot go into detail about.
While he left Tesla only 6 months after joining from Apple, Lattner says that he is still “a firm believer in Tesla, its mission, and the exceptional Autopilot team.”