Yet another member of Tesla’s self-driving executive team left the company in recent months — this time to join a competitor. The past seven months alone have seen three different heads of Autopilot, plus departures from other key leaders.
Former Tesla Director of Hardware Engineering Satish Jeyachandran joined Google’s autonomous car company, Waymo, earlier this week. Jeyachandran left Tesla in March of this year after nearly seven years at the company developing Autopilot computer and camera systems, and is the first Tesla exec to leave for Google’s self-driving unit.
Jeyachandran joined Waymo for its team’s impressive advancements in self-driving hardware, he said in a statement about the decision posted on LinkedIn Thursday, which is hilarious, because ha, LinkedIn, dork. Everyone knows Why I’m Leaving XXX Goes on Medium.
He said Waymo focuses on bringing self-driving tech to more people by housing the hardware and software development under one roof. Tesla, however, also houses both its hardware and software within the same department since breaking up with longtime partner on autonomous tech, Mobileye, so shrug?
His departure from Tesla’s self-driving team comes amid executive shakeups already within the unit.
Tesla’s Vice President of Autopilot Software Chris Lattner announced on Tuesday he was leaving the company after just six months, as it wasn’t a “good fit.” Tesla landed a victory at the time it hired Lattner, a longtime Apple exec who created the programming language Swift.
Lattner came to the company to replace former Director of Autopilot Software Sterling Anderson, who was sued in January 2017 for breach of contract over the alleged poaching of employees (Tesla later settled the suit with Anderson, without any finding of wrongdoing, and received $100,000 from Anderson’s company, Aurora Innovation, “to reimburse the cost of a future audit to demonstrate the integrity of Aurora’s intellectual property.”).*
A third executive on the self-driving team, David Nistér, left in April to work at AI startup NVIDIA.
To replace Lattner, an award-winning comp sci genius with his own Wikipedia page (the One True Hallmark Of Accomplishment That No One Ever Writes Themselves), CEO Elon Musk hired Andrej Karpathy, whose qualifications include a PhD he got from Stanford last year and three internships at Google.
And yes, while we’re keeping score, a PhD from Stanford and three internships from Google does indeed count you as a living god in Silicon Valley.
Executive departures can sometimes be the first sign of trouble at a company (see: Uber). Or not! It’s fine! Maybe.
*Correction: This piece originally reported that Anderson was sued for allegedly stealing confidential and proprietary information from Tesla. We have updated it to reflect that Anderson was actually sued for an alleged breach of contract, and the suit was settled with no finding of wrongdoing. We regret the error.