Tesla’s former head of AI joins Elon Musk-founded OpenAI

Tesla’s former head of AI, Andrej Karpathy, announced that he is joining OpenAI, an AI startup originally co-founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Karpathy joined Tesla more than five years ago as a neural net and computer vision expert. He joined as Tesla was transitioning from using Mobileye’s technology for driver-assist features to its own system powered by computer vision.

The engineer is credited for building Tesla’s machine learning and computer vision team. He quickly rose through the ranks and became a big part of Tesla’s Autopilot team and the automaker’s effort to develop a full self-driving system.

As Tesla expanded its effort from self-driving to broader artificial intelligence, Karpathy was promoted to senior director of AI at Tesla.

In March 2022, Karpathy announced that he was going on sabbatical for four months. At the time, we reported that it was worrisome since Tesla executives taking breaks has most often resulted in them not coming back.

Sure enough, Karpathy announced in July that he was not coming back to Tesla to focus on his “long-term passions around technical work in AI, open source and education.”

He was highly respected in the AI community and was credited for greatly helping Tesla hire in the field. It was seen as a big loss for Tesla when he left.

A few months ago, he said that he would consider coming back to Tesla at some point, but today he has announced that he is joining OpenAI:

Interestingly, OpenAI, an AI company now famous for its ChatGPTchatbot based on large language models, was originally co-founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk as a non-profit.

In 2018, Musk left Open AI’s board and sighted a potential conflict with Tesla’s own AI effort as the reason for severing ties with the company at the time.

Now it looks like we are witnessing a clear example of that potential conflict of interest as important AI team members are moving between the two companies.

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