Tesla (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc report CEO Elon Musk in January reiterated his repeated promise that its electric vehicles will be self-driving by the end of the year.
“I’d be shocked if we couldn’t achieve fully autonomous driving that’s safer than humans this year. I’d be shocked,” Musk said on Tesla’s fourth-quarter earnings call.
“Being safer than a human is a low bar, not a high bar. People are constantly distracted, tired, texting. … We don’t have more accidents, which is remarkable,” he stressed.
In other words, by the end of the year, owners of Tesla vehicles will have a feature that enables their cars to drive themselves in any condition.
The confidence of the billionaire entrepreneur who has upended the auto industry is based on progress made internally in artificial intelligence and is visible in Autopilot driver assistance systems, which include a state-of-the-art option called fully autonomous driving.
The FSD Beta with the latest features enables the vehicle to perform a variety of maneuvers. (You can read about it here.)
Now it goes a step further: FSD Beta “recognizes stop signs and traffic lights and automatically slows your car to a stop under your active supervision,” Tesla says.
But FSD doesn’t make Teslas self-driving: “All Teslas require active driver supervision and are not self-driving cars,” the automaker said on its website.
Tesla’s AI chief is leaving
Well, the end of the year is only five months away — Tesla’s top AI executive just announced he’s leaving the Austin company after a four-month sabbatical.
Andrej Karpathy, who joined Tesla in 2017, tweeted on July 13: “Excited to help Tesla achieve its goals for the past 5 years and make the difficult decision to part ways. During that time, Autopilot graduated from lane keeping to city streets, and I look forward to seeing the incredibly strong Autopilot team continue that momentum.”
“I have no specific plans for next steps, but would like to spend more time revisiting my longstanding passion for AI, open source, and education technology work,” Karpathy continued.
A year ago, Musk said Tesla’s Autopilot team was led by three people: Ashok Elluswamy, head of Autopilot engineering; Karpathy, director of artificial intelligence, and Milan Kovac.
In a December interview, the CEO highlighted Elluswamy’s role, a comment he later reiterated on Twitter. Today, that seems to be a way of preparing for Karpathy’s exit.
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“Ashok is actually the head of Autopilot engineering. Andrej is the head of AI; people often put too much trust in me and too much trust in Andrej. The Tesla Autopilot AI team is incredibly talented. Some of the smartest people in the world, ” Musk said on Dec. 28.
“Ashok was the first person to be recruited from my tweet to say Tesla is building an Autopilot team!” Musk doubled down on Dec. 29, 2021. A few months ago, Musk insisted there was a team behind Autopilot.
“By the way, the Autopilot software is technically led by Ashok, Andrej and Milan, but it’s more of a ‘Knights of the Round Table’ structure. There are a lot of talented engineers on the Autopilot/AI team who decide what to do for themselves. Kind of like Valve,” the tech giant tweeted on July 10, 2021.
Some experts say Karpathy’s departure appears to reflect Tesla’s efforts to deliver on its promise to deliver self-driving cars.
“We continue to view Tesla’s AV/robotaxi efforts as ‘show me’,” Credit Suisse analyst Dan Levy wrote in a note to clients.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done for Tesla! It’s been an honor to work with you,” Musk said after Karpathy announced his departure.
In March last year, the CEO also said that the AI chief was taking a four-month sabbatical: “Toronto streetcars have not been properly handled by the FSD. By the way, @karpathy is on a 4-month sabbatical,” Musk said in a statement. tweeted on March 27.
Karpathy’s departure comes as Autopilot has been the subject of a flurry of investigations by regulators.
Since 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating 37 crashes involving self-driving systems. Thirty of those involved Teslas, with 11 fatal crashes resulting in a total of 15 deaths.
The agency also said in the filing that it was investigating a fatal pedestrian accident involving a Tesla Model 3 in California. The incident happened this month. NHTSA also sent a team to investigate the Cruise self-driving car accident in California in June. This caused minor injuries.
NHTSA recently opened an investigation into a July 6 incident that killed two 2015 Tesla Model S passengers on Interstate 75 in Florida, a person familiar with the matter told TheStreet on July 11.
Newly confirmed NHTSA administrator Steven Cliff recently told The Associated Press that Tesla has been working with NHTSA.
“I think we’ve worked very well with them,” the head of the regulator told The Associated Press. “When we identified a risk, they’ve taken action, which is appropriate.”
In June, the federal agency released data from automakers and tech companies showing nearly 400 accidents involving vehicles equipped with partially automated driver-assistance systems in a 10-month period, 273 of which were related to Tesla .