Andrej Karpathy departs from Tesla after taking sabbatical [Update]

Tesla’s Senior Director of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Andrej Karpathy has announced he is leaving the company. Karpathy announced his departure on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon, just as he was about to return to Tesla after taking a four-month sabbatical.

In his announcement, Karpathy said it had been “a great pleasure” working at Tesla during his five year tenure at the company, helping Autopilot mature from lane-keeping all the way to navigating city streets with Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta.

Karpathy said in a follow-up tweet that has “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.”

Within minutes of the announcement, his former boss Elon Musk replied to thank him for all his contributions to Tesla, and that it had been an honour working with him.

Karpathy has been absent from Tesla since some time in March after Musk revealed he was taking a four-month sabbatical. At the time Karpathy said he was excited to return to Tesla after taking time rest and travel after almost five years of work at Tesla.

Based on the timing of the tweets, he was expected back at Tesla sometime in July.

Karpathy’s departure comes at a critical time for Tesla when the company hopes to have FSD Beta safer than a human and in the hands of all owners before the end of the year. How that timeline now shifts is unknown.

Tesla does have a very talented Autopilot team, as Karpathy points out, which will likely now be lead by Ashok Ellsuwamy that will hopefully be able to continue to advance the technology to maturity.

UPDATE 3:18pm PST: Karpathy has followed up with another Tweet to stress how deep and talented the Autopilot team is, but that they didn’t have the same public profile due to the “outsized spotlight” cast on him.

Karpathy joined Tesla in June 2017 and in his most recent role led the Autopilot computer vision team, according to his LinkedIn profile. Prior to joining Tesla Karpathy was a research scientist at OpenAi, a company backed by Elon Musk, who also served on the company’s board until 2018.

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