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Andrej Karpathy considers coming back to Tesla to work on Optimus and AGI

Andrej Karpathy, Tesla’s former head of artificial intelligence, said that he could return to Tesla, especially to work on the Optimus robot and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI).

Karpathy joined Tesla more than five years ago as a neural net and computer vision expert. He joined as Tesla was transitioning from using Mobileye’s technology for driver-assist features to its own system powered by computer vision.

The engineer is credited for building Tesla’s machine learning and computer vision team. 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.

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 in July that he was not coming back to Tesla to focus on his “long-term passions around technical work in AI, open source and education.”

On the Lex Fridman podcast this weekend, the engineer elaborated on why he left Tesla. Karpathy said that his role had grown too managerial and consisted of too many meetings rather than actual engineering.

Interestingly, Karpathy also added that he could see himself coming back to Tesla in the future:

It was difficult because I love Tesla, I love Elon, I love the team really. I would actually be interested in revisiting [Tesla] – maybe coming back at some point, maybe to work on Optimus or AGI at Tesla. I think Tesla is going to do incredible things. It’s a massive large-scale robotics company with in-house talent doing incredible things.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk responded on Twitter by saying that the engineer would “always be welcome at Tesla.”

Electrek’s Take

Karpathy was a big loss for Tesla, but he left only after helping to build a large, talented team, so his impact is likely going to be felt for a long time.

I understand his reason for leaving, but I feel like there might be more to it because if that was the only reason, he could have moved to a more hardcore engineering role and walked back his managerial duties. I am sure Tesla would have found a use for his talents.

But it’s nice to hear him be willing to come back to Tesla in the future.

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