After several changes in the Autopilot team’s leadership over the past few months, Tesla ended up hiring one of the leading AI and computer vision researchers this week.
At the same time however, we learn that several of the team’s top computer vision experts have left the company over the past few weeks.
In May 2015, Tesla hired Berta Rodriguez-Hervas, a research scientist from The University of Texas at El Paso and working at Mercedes’ R&D center, to be among the first computer vision experts working on Autopilot.
She was working under Tesla’s head of computer vision, David Nistér, who joined the automaker just a month prior.
Earlier this year, Nistér left to work on high-definition maps at Nvidia and now we’ve learned that Rodriguez-Hervas has joined him at the chipmaker earlier this month.
But she is not the only computer vision expert on Tesla’s team to leave over the past few weeks.
Electrek has learned that Minwoo Park, the lead of the Visual Perception team in Autopilot and one of the first computer vision engineers at Tesla, and Yekeun Jeong, the head of the Geometric Vision team at Autopilot and one of the former lead scientists on Microsoft’s Hololens, both left this month.
It comes just as Tesla is currently in the process of improving its computer vision system for Autopilot in order to transition vehicles with second generation hardware to the new more advanced ‘Enhanced Autopilot’.
A source familiar with the 3 departures told us that they are unrelated to recent change in leadership in the Autopilot and that it was actually planned before the ouster of Chris Lattner as VP of Autopilot Software or the arrival of Andrej Karpathy as the new head of AI and Autopilot Vision. .
Nonetheless, the 3 lead engineers in computer vision represent a significant loss of talent that Karpathy will now likely have to replace.
Self-driving technology is currently creating an incredibly high demand for engineers with an expertise in computer vision – making Tesla’s Autopilot engineers high value targets for recruiters since they are among a rare breed of engineers in the field who are actually delivering products in the space that’s being used by customers outside of test fleets.
Attracting talent is a high priority for all the companies in the field, like Apple, Waymo, Uber, and all the automakers working on self-driving technology. At Tesla, Chris Lattner was an important hire to attract talent due to his high-profile in the software community. Earlier this week, he said that he helped grew the Autopilot team by over 50% during his tenure.
Karpathy has a similarly high-profile, especially in the artificial neural network community, and could also help Tesla attract new talent in field. He used to teach a computer vision class at Stanford, which could help him target young new engineers in the field.