Tesla has released a statement claiming the head of the autopilot software program has left the firm less than six months after joining the car-maker. It has only been 6 months since Tesla poached Chris Lattner from Apple.
At the Cupertino firm, as the Senior Director of the Developer Tools Department, he developed the Swift programming language that the firm promotes heavily to developers.
All signs implied he was recruited to work on the enhanced autopilot program that Tesla had promised by December but did not deliver.
Shifting the Guard may cause Problems for Tesla’s Autopilot Program
This is the third executive in charge of the autopilot program to leave before its completion. Sterling Anderson joined the firm in 2014 as the Model X program manager and served as the director for the Autopilot systems for a year before leaving in December last year.
This was overshadowed by the arrival of Chriss Lattner who was hailed as a former Apple Exec. According to a Tesla spokesperson, “Andrej Karpathy, one of the world’s leading experts in computer vision and deep learning, is joining Tesla as Director of AI and Autopilot Vision.”
At this time, it seems that Jim Keller, the VP of hardware is also going to take over the responsibilities for Autopilot hardware and software while working with the newly hired Karpathy. The executive shakeup comes at a critical period in the autopilot program though it also reflects the growing demand from results from the chief executives.
Software and Partner Issues Hamper Autopilot System Development
Tesla started production with a new hardware suite to complement the second iteration of its autopilot systems in October. This came a few months after Mobileye, which provided image analysis for the autopilot program claimed it was no longer going to work with the car-maker.
Tesla has been reconstructing the Autopilot systems to work with the new hardware configurations but has had slow progress. Though the hardware is support to support the second iteration autopilot, the firm only recently restored the autopilot capabilities through a software update. Even Musk admitted it has been a slow transition from the Mobileye vision chip to Tesla’s internal vision structure.
The car-maker is now going to have to work quickly if it hopes to meet internal deadlines for the Autopilot system which entails the second iteration of the Autopilot and having one of its models drive by itself from Los Angeles to New York by end of year.
Here, Tesla has a lot of competition considering other firms have already made similar milestones. Waymo and Otto, for example are currently perfecting the self driving truck concept where one has already completed a delivery of beer cans in Colorado. Albeit it was a small distance compared to what Tesla, hopes to achieve, they are clearly giving the electric car-maker a run for its money.
The other thing is this is all Tesla has been on about for some time and so having slow progress and removing key personnel this late in the game places more pressure on the company to deliver on its massive demo.