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Tesla Autopilot team loses several more engineers as Elon Musk takes over

We are now getting more information about the Tesla Autopilot team restructuring that started in April as a new report lists several Autopilot engineers who have left the automaker.

The report comes from The Information and builds on a previous report from Electrek back in May.

We reported that Tesla was restructuring its Autopilot software team and Elon Musk was taking the reins.

Here’s from the original report:

“According to people familiar with the matter talking to Electrek, Stuart Bowers, VP of Autopilot Software, saw several of his responsibilities being removed and people under him have been promoted and are now going to report directly to Musk.

Amongst the people being promoted, Milan Kovac, a software engineer who held several positions on Tesla’s Autopilot team over the last 3 years, has been promoted to Director of Autopilot Software Engineering at Tesla.

Several other senior Autopilot engineers have been let go and others promoted as part of this restructuring. We will update as more information becomes available.”

Now The Information has reported more details about the shakeup, including some of the engineers who left and others who were promoted.

Autopilot engineers who left Tesla in the shakeup:

  • Frank Havlak: a 5-year Autopilot veteran who led controls and path planning—
  • Nenad Uzunovic: a member of the path planning team for 2 and a half years
  • Drew Steedly: who led perception on Tesla’s Autopilot team
  • Ben Goldstein: a software engineer who led the simulation team at Tesla and he now took a similar role at GM’s Cruise

They also reported on some engineers who have been promoted or have taken over some of the responsibilities from the previously mentioned engineers who are no longer at Tesla.

As we previously reported, Kovac got the biggest promotion, but The Information also reported on:

  • Ashok Elluswamy: a 5-year Autopilot veteran who now leads the “perception” and computer vision teams
  • CJ Moore: also a 5-year Tesla Autopilot team veteran who took over the lead for the simulation program
  • Drew Baglino: a long time Tesla engineering executive with several different responsibilities took over path planning

Tesla didn’t comment on our original report about the latest Autopilot team restructuring and they didn’t comment on The Information’s follow-up.

Electrek’s Take

As mentioned in our previous report about this situation, it sounds like Elon got rid of people who didn’t agree with his timeline of achieving fully autonomous vehicles by the end of next year.

It’s an extremely aggressive timeline that is doubted by the entire industry, but the CEO has been pushing hard for it over the last year.

Lately, the company even doubled down on the idea and made it the top selling point for Tesla vehicles; that they can be upgraded to fully self-driving capability.

It’s important for Tesla to deliver on the feature since Tesla is currently selling cars with the promise that their owners are going to be able to upgrade them with full self-driving capability through a simple software upgrade (for cars built since April 2019) and through a computer upgrade (for cars built since October 2016).

If Tesla doesn’t deliver the critical capability, which has regulatory and safety concerns, it will be in trouble with hundreds of thousands of owners.

With that in mind, it’s not hard to imagine how it can create tension within the team if there are disagreements about the timeline.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

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