Former Apple guru and Tesla’s Vice President of Autopilot Software Chris Lattner left the company Tuesday after only six months with the automaker. Lattner is the third key member of Tesla’s self-driving team to leave the company in the last six months.
Lattner came to Tesla after 11 years at Apple. In a tweet, he said Tesla simply wasn’t a “good fit” for him after all and is looking for other opportunities.
The former Senior Director at Apple is perhaps best known for creating Swift, an open source programming language employed in iOS and macOS software.
Lattner’s departure directly follows that of another key executive on Tesla’s Autopilot team, David Nistér, who left the company in April after two years. Nistér served as Vice President of Autopilot at Tesla after working at Microsoft.
Nistér now serves as a top executive to NVIDIA, a Santa Clara-based tech companies that develops AI for self-driving cars, among other applications.
Lattner came to the company to replace former Director of Autopilot Software Sterling Anderson, who was later sued for a stealing confidential and proprietary information from Tesla. The lawsuit, filed January 26 in the Superior Court of California in Santa Clara County, said:
“Both directly and by using his business partner as his proxy, Anderson worked to recruit Tesla’s engineers, eventually making offers to at least a dozen people — all in direct violation of his contractual non-solicitation obligations and the duty of loyalty that he owed to Tesla as an employee.”
Anderson co-founded Aurora Innovation, a driverless car software and sensor start-up, alongside former Google and Uber leads.
The former-exec said Tesla filed a “meritless lawsuit” against Aurora, and withdrew its claims in mid-April without finding wrongdoing before Sterling had a chance to file a response:
“In spite of this distraction, we’ve made great progress these last few months and are excited to now focus all of our energy on making transportation safer and better for all,” Sterling wrote in a Medium post.
The race to be the first to develop truly autonomous cars isn’t over yet, and Tesla might risk losing its lead in the midst of rotating leadership. Could these executive shakeups signal trouble in the water for Tesla’s highly touted self-driving tech?