Andrej Karpathy, senior director in charge of AI and computer vision at Tesla, announced that he is leaving the automaker. It is a big loss for Tesla’s Autopilot team and self-driving effort.

Karpathy joined Tesla more than five years ago as a neural net and computer vision expert. He quickly rose through the ranks and became a big part of Tesla’s Autopilot team and the automaker’s effort to develop a full self-driving system.

As Tesla expanded its effort from self-driving to broader artificial intelligence, Karpathy was promoted to senior director of AI at Tesla.

He was one of the rare executives not named Musk who was allowed to take center stage during presentations, and he was widely seen as leading Tesla when it comes to software related to AI, Autopilot, and self-driving.

In March, Karpathy announced that he was going on sabbatical for four months. At the time, we reported that it was worrisome since Tesla executives taking breaks has most often resulted in them not coming back.

Sure enough, Karpathy announced today that he is leaving Tesla:

The AI expert said that he doesn’t know where he is going from here, but he said that he will continue to pursue his “long-term passions around technical work in AI, open source and education.”

Electrek’s Take

We had heard several rumors that Karpathy was not coming back, but we couldn’t confirm it. Looks like they were true. The departure is likely going to be a big blow to Tesla’s self-driving program and broader AI effort.

The automaker has plenty of other smart people on the team, but Karparthy was seen as a competent leader and appeared to be well liked across the industry.

We don’t know who will be taking over his leadership role, but people like Ashok Elluswamy and Milan Kovac, who have both taken broader leadership roles on the software side of Autopilot in the last few years, are likely candidates.

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