Tesla has hired deep learning and computer vision expert Andrej Karpathy in a key Autopilot role. Karpathy most recently held a role as a researcher at OpenAI, the artificial intelligence nonprofit backed by Elon Musk. He has an extensive background in AI-related fields, having completed a PhD at Stanford University in computer vision.
Karpathy also created one of the original, and most respected, deep learning courses taught at Stanford, and his dissertation work focused on creating a system by which a neural network could identify multiple discrete and specific items within an image, label them using natural language and report to a user. The dissertation also included developing a system that works in reverse, allowing for a model that can use descriptions from a user articulated in natural language (i.e. “white tennis shoes”) and find that object in a given image.
Karpathy also previously interned at Google’s DeepMind, focusing on deep learning, and attended both the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto before that. His work and expertise should prove a big asset to Tesla’s work on Autopilot, especially in the area of Tesla Vision, the compute vision system built by the company to support Autopilot and its future self-driving initiative.
In his new role as Director of AI and Autopilot Vision, Karpathy will report to Musk directly, but he will also work closely in concert with Tesla’s Jim Keller, who previously led Tesla’s Autopilot hardware division but who now oversees both hardware and software for the automaker’s vehicle automated driver assistance features.
Tesla provided the following statement to TechCrunch regarding Karpathy’s hiring and responsibilities:
Andrej Karpathy, one of the world’s leading experts in computer vision and deep learning, is joining Tesla as Director of AI and Autopilot Vision, reporting directly to Elon Musk. Andrej has worked to give computers vision through his work on ImageNet, as well as imagination through the development of generative models, and the ability to navigate the internet with reinforcement learning. He was most recently a Research Scientist at OpenAI.
Andrej completed his computer vision PhD at Stanford University, where he demonstrated the ability to derive complex descriptions of images using a deep neural net. For example, identifying not simply that there is a cat in a given picture, but that it is an orange, spotted cat, riding on a skateboard with red wheels on brown hardwood flooring (http://cs.stanford.edu/people/karpathy/main.pdf). He also created and taught “Convolutional Neural Networks for Visual Recognition,” the first and still leading deep learning course at Stanford.
Andrej will work closely with Jim Keller, who now has overall responsibility for Autopilot hardware and software.