Jim Keller, Tesla’s VP of Autopilot, has left the electric automaker to take up a new position at Intel, according to a report from Electrek. Keller initially joined Tesla back in 2016 after previous stints at both Apple and AMD. Keller’s departure from Tesla appears to be amicable and may simply be a function of Keller seeking a return to microprocessor design.
In a statement confirming Keller’s intention to jump ship, Tesla noted: “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”
That aside, there’s no denying that Keller’s departure comes at a crucial time for Tesla.
First, this marks the second time in less than a year that Tesla has seen its Autopilot chief leave for another company. If you recall, Tesla back in January of 2017 hired former Apple engineer Chris Lattner to head up its Autopilot Software division. Just six months later, Lattner left under somewhat mysterious circumstances, only noting via Twitter that Tesla wasn’t a “good fit.” Lattner ultimately found a new position at Google.
Second, Tesla’s Autopilot feature is arguably under more scrutiny today than ever before. Just about two months ago, a Model X in Autopilot mode careened into a highway divider, subsequently prompting the battery pack to catch fire and engulf the car in flames. Tragically, the driver of the Model X did not survive the incident. Consequently, Tesla’s Autopilot feature had been under the microscope as of late as the company continues to roll out updates designed to improve performance.
As a final point, Keller will reportedly be replaced by Pete Bannon, a former Apple employee who joined the Cupertino-based company as a chip designer when Apple acquired PA Semi few years ago.