Tesla’s Autopilot Software Head Quits After 6 Months

Kendrick Barnes June 21, 2017
Tesla’s Autopilot Software Head Quits After 6 Months

Tesla’s head of autopilot software, Chris Lattner, called it quits with the company in less than six months since joining the electric car maker as the company has shaken up the leadership of its Autopilot team for a second time this year.

Just days after Elon Musk tweeted about upgrades in semi-autonomous driving features for Tesla electric vehicles, the head of its Autopilot development efforts has been replaced, the second shake-up in less than six months. The company also appointed an artificial intelligence expert Musk has worked with on a different project to lead its autonomous vehicle technology push.

Chris Lattner joined Tesla in January, coming from Apple, to become its vice president of Autopilot software and head up the engineering group working on that feature. He confirmed his departure in a tweet late Tuesday.

“Turns out that Tesla isn't a good fit for me after all,” he said. “I'm interested to hear about interesting roles for a seasoned engineering leader!”

Tesla emulated that sentiment in its own statement. "Chris just wasn’t the right fit for Tesla, and we’ve decided to make a change. We wish him the best.”

Lattner’s responsibilities have been taken over by another Apple veteran, Jim Keller, who joined Tesla 18 months ago was already in charge of hardware for Autopilot. Keller will be helped out by new recruit, Andrej Karpathy, who most recently worked as a researcher at OpenAI, the nonprofit firm that was founded by Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk and other Silicon Valley veterans.

Tesla describes Karpathy as “one of the world’s leading experts in computer vision and deep learning.”

Autopilot has been among the most advanced forms of semi-autonomous driving technology on the market today, enabling Teslas to drive on their own under certain highway conditions and even handle tasks including making lane changes. The company made major modifications to it, however, after a crash in Florida last year that killed a Model S owner who was using Autopilot at the time of the collision. A review by U.S. safety regulators eventually determined that Tesla was not at fault in the accident.

Lattner’s January hiring was announced shortly before the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the results of its review of Autopilot. He replaced Sterling Anderson, who’d previously led the automated driving team. Anderson has since co-founded Aurora Innovation, a self-driving vehicle tech startup, with Chris Urmson, the former head of Google’s self-driving car project.


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Kendrick Barnes
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