back to article Tesla's driverless car software chief steps down

Tesla's driverless car software chief, a former Apple engineer, has quit just six months after he joined Elon Musk's 'leccy car builders. Announcing his departure on Twitter, Chris Lattner, formerly Tesla's veep of autopilot software, posted: "Turns out that Tesla isn't a good fit for me after all. I'm interested to hear about …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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

    If that's their idea of the sort of real world situation that the software needs to cope with, then maybe it's time to introduce mandatory drug testing in the workplace

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Apparently, microdosing with LSD is a big thing in Silly Valley and similar places. They say it boosts their creativity and insight. It also makes cats very adventurous.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      identifying not simply that there is a truck in the picture, but that there is a big white truck with no side impact guards, could be useful. However, spotting that there is a truck there in the first place should hopefully be their priority.

      1. BillG Silver badge
        Happy

        Can it identify a truck driven by a cat?

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      but that it is an orange, spotted cat, riding on a skateboard with red wheels on brown hardwood flooring

      ---------------------------------

      If that's their idea of the sort of real world situation that the software needs to cope with, then maybe it's time to introduce mandatory drug testing in the workplace

      You mean you *don't* have a ginger, skateboard riding cat at home? Admittedly, none of my ginger-gene cats (one ginger, one ginger and white, one tortie[1], one calico and one black cat with self-tabby marking that I suspect is a closet tortie, based on her behaviour) have shown a propensity to ride said devices, but I don't get to see what they do when I'm not there.

      For all I know, my garden could be the local skate park. I cartainly haz enough cat-drugs[2] in it to qualify..

      [1] The ginger gene is linked to gender - males are ginger, females are almost always[3] torties or calico cats. It's also epigenetic so, if you were to clone a tortie, the clone almost certainly would have the same coat pattern as the source cat.

      [2] We have several large patches of cat mint. We planted a number of them because the original one got eaten down to the stump and then died.

      [3] There are some entirely ginger females. They are usually XXY (and so almost always infertile) or torties that only have the ginger epigenetically expressed. And usually, worth a small fortune to breeders[4].

      [4] I'm not a fan of breeders generally - especially those that perform matings with very close sanguinuity in order to fix a particular feature. That's how you end up with cats and dogs that can't actually breathe properly or have offspring without requiring a caeserarian.

  2. wolfetone Silver badge
    Trollface

    "Karpathy, meanwhile, has a Stanford PhD in "computer vision""

    So he's basically got a doctorate in computer monitors?

    1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      I suppose it's down to the difference between "seeing computers" and "computers seeing"...

  3. Alister Silver badge

    Tesla has been riding out recent storms over its driverless car technology quite well.

    What Tesla offer is a selection of driver aids which among other things incorporate cruise control, lane-keeping and auto braking, but to call it "driverless" technology is very misleading.

    1. Kernel

      "What Tesla offer is a selection of driver aids which among other things incorporate cruise control, lane-keeping and auto braking, but to call it "driverless" technology is very misleading."

      No, if the car can do a trip of 37 minutes before crashing and only 25 seconds of that is with the "driver's" hands on the wheel, that's more than a driver aid - that's something that was designed, intended and expected by the end user to operate as an autonomous driverless system.

  4. ratfox Silver badge

    it did seem like a weird position for a programming language and compilation expert.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    I think Uber might have a vacancy.

    Although I doubt he'll be seeing a $680m "hiring bonus."

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: I think Uber might have a vacancy.

      +1 Beat me to it

    2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: I think Uber might have a vacancy.

      Uber doesn't need a computer science expert.

      What it needs is someone who knows what 'ethics' means and has them. It would also help if this person understands how to fix a toxic company without destroying it.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: I think Uber might have a vacancy.

        fix a toxic company without destroying it.

        But if the company has toxicity built into it's business model, there's no chance. If Uber didn't just ignore inconvenient local legislation their business model of "Destroy & Monopolise" wouldn't stand a chance, and to be honest doesn't deserve to stand a chance.

        Lobby to change rules but ignore them and expect to be prosecuted - Uber has no future with it's current operating model, it's amazing they haven't been sued to oblivion already.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I think Uber might have a vacancy.

        Just fucking destroy it and make everyone's lives better!

        1. JLV Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: I think Uber might have a vacancy.

          >destroy it

          I hear Marissa's available

          1. gregthecanuck
            Happy

            Re: I think Uber might have a vacancy.

            Congratulations! You win LOL of the day. :)

      3. Commswonk Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: I think Uber might have a vacancy.

        @ Martin Gregorie: What it needs is someone who knows what 'ethics' means and has them.

        And of course any appointment has to meet the "diversity" agenda.

        Perhaps they should employ an Ethics Girl.

        Er, I'd better get my coat.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a good fit...

    When I see this I often wonder what it really means. Was the guy someone who couldn't play nice with others? Was he hired with the promise of doing one thing, only to find out they really wanted him to do something else? Did things change after he arrived, and what started out great quickly went sour? Did anyone even know what their "fit" was?

    My fascination with this is my current situation - been laid off after 10 years at my last job, and all I hear talking to HR people is the "good fit" phrase over and over again. But the irony is, I rarely get to speak to the actual people I'll be working with - the ones who could likely tell if I'll "fit" or not. Instead, HR shuttles me off to the oh-so-popular "Predictive Analysis" website where I get to check two pages of boxes beside adjectives that supposedly determine my "fit", and if the test says

    "no" it's the end of the road.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not a good fit...

      AC related "...I get to check two pages of boxes beside adjectives..."

      This appears to be a more scientific and logical process than shaking a mug of chicken bones over your head. Keyword "appears"...

      Back in the day, 30-odd years ago, my hiring including 'Handwriting Analysis'. Not joking.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not a good fit...

        Well I would be very careful about using the term 'scientific' here if I were you.

        But yes, I have also seen handwriting analysis - very popular in the late 80s and even more so with some parts of government.

    2. spider from mars

      Re: Not a good fit...

      In my experience, it generally means "he disagreed with the boss one time too often"

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Not a good fit...

      Well consider that he left Apple for a new job, and six months in he's letting everyone know he's left Tesla and is looking for a job. That means he was fired.

      No way to know under what circumstances he left Apple, but if he told them he was quitting and they wanted to keep him they could have beat Tesla's offer if they considered him valuable enough. If he left Apple on good terms and he was someone they would want back, he probably could have got himself re-hired right after Tesla fired him and wouldn't be putting the word out that he needs a job. So it doesn't look like Apple wants him back, either.

      1. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Not a good fit...

        Quite possibly true.

        Yet, he's got some major mojo - Swift is one thing but he was also the guy behind the Clang compiler (the one challenging gcc) and LLVM.

        Doubt he left/got left cuz he couldn't code. But as another poster said - odd choice of role/area for him.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Not a good fit...

        "So it doesn't look like Apple wants him back, either."

        ...or maybe after 10 years of Apple, and 6 months in Tesla, he's at a point where he wants to work somewhere where there's a bit less of a toxic "work always comes first" environment.

        I spent 12 years in a relatively high pressure environment. I'd never ever want to go back to that. Some people thrive like that, some only while young, many don't.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not a good fit...

      I've usually seen that the "good fit" argument is used in cases where you are seen as a threat to the management.

      Here's my guess as to what happened here at Tesla. Even though the deaths induced by negligent drivers were not really the fault of Tesla, the gruesomeness of the deaths created a permanent negative association from a PR standpoint. This put an immense amount of pressure on the folks in charge of self driving tech, and charged them with trying to idiot-proof a potentially deadly product that many consumers were already using in the wild.

      Because our technology is still unable to deal with particular changes to the environment, we are still a long way away from achieving human-level perception and judgment out on the road. So in a very real sense, autonomous cars are currently impossible, and no single engineer will be able to live up to the promise of delivering a human driver replacement. It will get better with time, but this isn't something that you can ever assign a due date.

      Thing is, management and marketers don't like being told that what they want is "impossible". Shareholders demand their payouts on a regular schedule and can't be bothered with the concerns of reality and physics. They deal exclusively in imaginary numbers and slinging bullshit, and all they really want is for the nerds to inflate their egos.

    5. alansell14

      Re: Not a good fit...

      Or he was "asleep behind the wheel" ?

  7. Do Not Fold Spindle Mutilate
    Joke

    Driverless software now has Driverless Management

    Seems like a perfect fit. If there is no need for a car driver in the car because the software does all the work then there is no need for an organization driver, management, to create all of the obtuse emails and weird vision statements.

  8. handleoclast Silver badge
    Coat

    Tesla has been riding out recent storms over its driverless car technology quite well.

    Yep. Riding out the storms very well indeed.

    "Oh shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!!! Where did that big lorry com..."

    Shouldn't have been riding out the storms in a driverless car, though.

  9. Nate Amsden Silver badge

    he probably wasn't drowning in the kool aid

    Elon sounds like a pretty terrible person to work for(seems possible this guy had regular interactions with musk). I'm sure he is smart and successful, but crazy from what I've read (probably not as bad as steve jobs).

  10. GSTZ

    Blinded by the light ...

    That particular Tesla vs. truck accident was caused by using improper sensor technology. You just can't rely on optical sensors alone (just like the human eye, they can get blinded under certain conditions) and so you need radar and/or laser sensors in addition. Basic technical design flaw, not just a software bug (Tesla has meanwhile added radar sensors).

    But even then, you can't rely that electronics and software alone will be perfect for driving cars. That environment is extremely complex. There will always be some cases where technology makes stupid misinterpretations and hence, terrible mistakes which the average human driver would not make.

    This is not to say that human drivers don't make mistakes, they probably make more. But they are better at detecting and correcting these in real time when driving actively. However, being disengaged from the driving process and only being alerted when the software throws the towel is a perfect recipe for trouble - human beings are not good at task switching. It takes too long to switch from watching a Harry Potter movie to realizing basic driving-related things (like where am I ?, What is going on ? etc.). Authorities would probably have to limit the driving speed to 5 mph to achieve a reasonable level of safety.

    Wild marketing claims that autonomous driving will be far more safe than conventional driving are just that - wild marketing claims. The CEO of a very large european insurance company recently stated that the number of accidents will go up, not down when autonomous driving is introduced. However, he asserted that modern driving assistance systems clearly do improve road safety. Obviously, the driver still being involved makes the difference.

    Insurance companies by their very nature are experts in managing risks ...

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