Tesla Loses A.I. Expert Amid Model 3 Production Issues

Well established chip designer Jim Keller has parted ways with Tesla after three years at the company. Elon Musk’s electric-car firm hired Keller from chipmaker Advanced Micro Device (AMD) back in 2015 to lead Tesla’s development of an artificial intelligence-powered chip for its autopilot feature. This departure comes shortly after the car manufacturer was forced to shut down Model 3 production, but a replacement is already lined up.

Tesla confirmed to Electrek that Pete Bannon, who has been on Tesla staff for over two years and previously oversaw the development of multiple Apple chips, will take up the now-vacant role. Keller will be joining the ranks of Intel, which now has its own autonomous driving division after acquiring former Tesla partner Mobileye in March 2017. Keller was the head of the autopilot program and held several other responsibilities on the hardware side of things at Tesla. In a statement, the automaker said it was sad to see him leave but added that the position at Intel would better align with his passion.

A Tesla Model S with Autopilot driving the car.

“Today is Jim Keller’s last day at Tesla, where he has overseen low-voltage hardware, Autopilot software and infotainment,” stated a Tesla spokesperson. “Prior to joining Tesla, Jim’s core passion was microprocessor engineering and he’s now joining a company where he’ll be able to once again focus on this exclusively. We appreciate his contributions to Tesla and wish him the best.”

This would be Tesla’s third major leadership change in just over a year since Keller replaced Chris Lattner in early 2017. This comes at a time when the company has been facing mounting production pressures from investors and consumers. However, since Tesla has made an internal replacement, Bannon should be able to hit the ground running.

Although Bannon will step in for Keller, Tesla’s director of A.I. and autopilot vision, Andrej Karpathy, will now take on overall responsibility for all the autopilot software. Karpathy was a former member of Musk’s OpenAI team.

While one A.I. visionary might have left Tesla, the automaker is still in good hands with its current staffing situation.

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