Tesla AI Director Steps Down

Tesla’s artificial intelligence director, Andrej Karpathy, resigned after five years with the company. He gave few indications of his future plans other than possibly pursuing other opportunities for “technical work in AI, open source and education.”

Earlier this year, Karpathy took a sabbatical, during which he backpacked around Europe and Asia.

Tesla plans to release Full Self-Driving to more than one million Tesla vehicle owners next month. As the AI director, Karpathy steered efforts to train the AI behind Tesla’s driver assist programs. Over the past year, Tesla spun up some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, which are optimized for neural networks and AI. It uploaded a whitepaper on its “Dojo” system to Thron.com.

While neither Tesla nor Karpathy gave a reason for his departure, he lasted longer than many leaders on the Autopilot and FSD development teams. Like all of Musk’s companies, Tesla has become known for its demanding work culture. It has also successfully sued the occasional disgruntled employee for corporate espionage or leaking sensitive documents.

Tesla owners who opted to add Autopilot said that it showed a noticeable improvement during Karpathy’s tenure. It added new features like the ability to recognize stopped emergency vehicles with lights on and other vehicles’ stop and brake lights. Despite the improvements, the NHSTA routinely probes incidents that allegedly involved Tesla’s Autopilot or Full Self-Driving, including a few alleged accidents involving emergency vehicles.

Autopilot and Full Self-Driving routinely send data back to Tesla’s supercomputers. This helps train the AI and, along with footage from the onboard cameras, can be used as evidence in an accident. The data proved to the NSTB’s satisfaction that Autopilot was not active during a fatal crash in Texas in summer 2021 as investigators initially believed, for instance.

Despite the improvements, Tesla continues to warn that drivers should remain alert while using Autopilot and Full Self-Driving. As additional safety measures, it activated an interior camera that can track users’ alertness and added a required safety assessment that Tesla vehicle owners have to pass before they can use Full Self-Driving.

On the plus side, Tesla owners may eventually be able to save money on their insurance in real-time if they continue to show safe driving habits. In October 2021, it introduced a new insurance program with dynamic rates based on driving data. The pilot for this insurance program is currently only available in Texas but could be rolled out nationwide or even worldwide in the future. Tesla also has an insurance program in California but uses standard statistical metrics instead of the dynamic “Safety Score” in that state. (On the plus side, it doesn’t use variables like age or gender when calculating insurance rates.)

Tesla hasn’t said whether it has chosen a replacement for Andrej Karpathy yet. However, it’s easy to quickly upload your resume if you are interested in joining Tesla’s AI, Autopilot, and Full Self-Driving development teams.