Tesla's Director of AI is leaving the company (Updated)

Andrej Karpathy headed up the company's Autopilot development program for half a decade.

Beck Diefenbach / Reuters

Tesla Director of AI, Andrej Karpathy, is stepping down from his role at the company and from the helm of its Autopilot program. "It’s been a great pleasure to help Tesla towards its goals over the last 5 years and a difficult decision to part ways," Karpathy announced via Twitter on Wednesday, having just returned from a four-month sabbatical.

The news follows suspicions, then confirmations, that Tesla would be reducing its workforce by as much as 10 percent. The company has already laid off more than 200 employees from the Autopilot division and permanently shuttered its San Mateo offices. Musk has previously made overtures about packing up and leaving Silicon Valley, where Tesla was founded, for the sun-baked shores of central Texas. The company moved its headquarters from California to Austin last October and has heavily focused its new production capabilities there.

Before becoming the Senior Director of AI at Tesla, Karpathy was a research scientist with OpenAI's deep learning program focusing on computer vision and generative modeling. Prior to that, he was part of Fei-Fei Li's research team at Stanford for his PhD. Karpathy has "no concrete plans" yet for the future but is looking to "spend more time revisiting my long-term passions around technical work in AI, open source and education," he noted in a subsequent tweet.

Update (7:30 PM ET 7/13/22): The Information reports that Karpathy is not the only Tesla executive to depart today. A "senior director focused on DEI" has also apparently left, as well as Chris Rollins, a senior software manager in Tesla’s energy division. Kristen Kavanaugh, a senior director focused on diversity and inclusion, resigned last month.

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