More Tesla turnover: Autopilot software chief out

Tesla lost another executive this week, with Autopilot software chief Chris Lattner announcing his departure Tuesday night.

The former Apple executive was brought on six months ago as vice president of Autopilot software, the driver assist package and foundation of the company’s self-driving technology.

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

A Tesla spokesperson said Lattner “just wasn’t the right fit for Tesla, and we’ve decided to make a change. We wish him the best.”



Tesla has seen recent turnover in its executive ranks. Chief Financial Officer Jason Wheeler left in April and was replaced by former CFO Deepak Ahuja.

A company spokesperson said Jim Keller, previously in charge of Autopilot hardware, will also assume responsibilities for the system’s software.

Tesla also hired Andrej Karpathy, a computer vision and deep learning expert with a Ph.D. from Stanford. Karpathy will become director of AI and Autopilot vision, reporting directly to CEO Elon Musk. He will also work closely with Keller, the company said.

Lattner came to Tesla in January, after spending 11 years at Apple developing Swift, the programming language for building applications on Apple products. Tesla expected Lattner to “accelerate the future of autonomous driving.”

Lattner replaced Sterling Anderson, who left Tesla to form an autonomous vehicle technology startup called Aurora Innovation with Chris Urmson, former director of Google’s self-driving project.

Tesla revamped Autopilot late last year, and has been rolling out new versions and updates regularly. The latest edition came to Model S and Model X this month.

But the package has drawn criticism from some drivers and citizen advocates. A handful of Tesla drivers sued the company, claiming Autopilot is unsafe and failed to live up to its advertising. The company denied the claims.

Photo: An exterior view of Tesla’s Model S beta prototype. (Dai Sugano/Mercury News)


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