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Tesla’s head of Autopilot software leaves in restructuring

Tesla’s head of Autopilot software, Stuart Bowers, has left the automaker to work for the venture capital firm Greylock after a restructuring of the Autopilot team.

Over the last few months, there have been several reports about a restructuring of Tesla’s Autopilot team.

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.”

A few months later, The Information corroborated our sources and added other specifics about the changes in the Autopilot team.

Despite all the changes and Musk taking more direct reports, it wasn’t clear if Bowers had actually left the company.

Now we have confirmation for the first time that the executive has left Tesla after Greylock Partners announced that he has joined the firm as an Executive in Residence

Greylock partner Josh McFarland said about his time at Tesla:

“Most recently, Stuart led the Autopilot Software Team at Tesla, where he managed a team of more than 100 engineers. He focused on taking what was happening with both hardware and computer vision, and packaging it with all the planning, controls and testing, and the operating system to make a viable product that goes on top of people’s cars.”

Before joining Tesla in 2018, Bowers was a software exec at Snap.

Electrek’s Take

While it’s unclear if Bowers was let go or if he quit, the recent changes in the Autopilot team appear to be Elon getting rid of people who don’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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