Tesla has lost one of its most prominent executives, who had been developing the electric car maker’s controversial driver-assistant technology.
Artificial intelligence (AI) expert Andrej Karpathy, who headed the Autopilot division, announced his resignation on Wednesday.
“It’s been a great pleasure to help Tesla towards its goals over the last 5 years and a difficult decision to part ways,” he wrote on Twitter.
“In that time, Autopilot graduated from lane keeping to city streets and I look forward to seeing the exceptionally strong Autopilot team continue that momentum.”
The departure of Karpathy, who provided no reason for leaving, comes at a critical time as chief executive Elon Musk races to achieve full self-driving capability this year, after missing earlier targets several times.
Karpathy did not specify his next plan. “I have no concrete plans for what’s next but look to spend more time revisiting my long-term passions around technical work in AI, open source and education.”
Challenges to Tesla’s Progress
Credit Suisse analyst Dan Levy wrote in an investor note that Karpathy’s departure “possibly reflects challenges to Tesla progress in FSD/robotaxi. “We continue to view Tesla efforts in AV/robotaxi as ‘show me’,” he said. FSD is full self-driving.
Shares of the EV maker fell 1% in extended trade to $704.
The departure of Karpathy, whose title was senior director of AI, came after the electric carmaker said on Tuesday it was shutting its office in San Mateo, California, part of the company’s team developing Autopilot and laying off more than 200 people there.
Karpathy, who worked at the electric car company’s Palo Alto office, led the computer vision team of Autopilot, overseeing efforts to train AI technology using data collected from vehicles on the road.
Musk responded in a tweet: “Thanks for everything you have done for Tesla! It has been an honour working with you.”
The company’s driver assistant technology made big strides during Karpathy’s tenure, although the technology fell short of promises by Musk, who said in 2019 that Tesla would launch driverless taxis by 2020.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell