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Tesla’s Head of Autopilot Quits to Pursue Passion

Story Highlights

Tesla’s top Autopilot official is leaving the company. The company, already facing several investigations, may be in for more trouble ahead.

Tesla’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) head of Autopilot, Andrej Karpathy, is parting ways with the electric vehicle (EV) maker to pursue his “long-term passions around technical work in AI, open source, and education,” he tweeted.

Karpathy, an artificial intelligence (AI) specialist, joined Tesla in 2017 and has been instrumental in innovating and upgrading the company’s advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS), aka Autopilot. Karpathy was apparently on a sabbatical for a month before he decided to leave the company, stating, “I have no concrete plans for what’s next.”

Tesla’s Autopilot Feature

Karpathy’s departure comes when the company is already dealing with a myriad of investigations into its Autopilot system, conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency is scrutinizing whether the Autopilot system is indeed safe or should be recalled. Moreover, Tesla also closed its Silicon Valley office last month and has reportedly let off around 229 employees.

Tesla’s standard model comes built-in with the basic version of Autopilot, which helps vehicles steer on highways and maintain safe distances from other vehicles. Meanwhile, high-end versions with advanced navigation features are capable of reading a stop signal and can be installed at a price. Nonetheless, Tesla has not been able to launch a fully driverless experience to date, as promised by CEO Elon Musk in 2016.

Tesla’s performance is primarily based on how soon the company can launch a problem-free Autopilot feature amid stiff competition in the EV space. Tesla’s stock could take a plunge if the NHTSA allegations are proven true, or if several alterations are needed for full self-driving mode on the road.

Additionally, with Musk’s Twitter (TWTR) deal having taken an ugly turn, Tesla shares will surely sway every time a hearing comes up. The EV maker is already battling with the tough task of increasing EV deliveries amid supply chain challenges and a shortage of chips and parts.

Wall Street Cautiously Optimistic About TSLA

Recently, Truist Financial analyst William Stein initiated coverage of TSLA with a Buy rating and a $1,000 (40.6% upside potential) price target.

Stein expects Tesla to capture the highest share of EV units sold and to deliver 10 million units by 2030. He also believes that the company has impressive underappreciated margin upside potential.

Overall, TSLA stock has a Moderate Buy consensus rating based on 17 Buys, eight Holds, and six Sells. The average Tesla price forecast of $856.59 implies 20.5% upside potential to current levels. Meanwhile, the stock has lost 40.7% year to date.

Parting Thoughts

A top official leaving the company is always accompanied by negative sentiment. In fact, Tesla is currently surrounded by a slew of negative news. TipRanks data shows that the News Score for Tesla is currently Negative based on 358 articles over the past seven days. Notably, 50% of the articles have a Bullish Sentiment compared to a sector average of 61%, while 50% of the articles have a Bearish Sentiment compared to a sector average of 39%.


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