Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
The leader of Tesla’s Dojo supercomputer project, Ganesh Venkataramanan, has left the company, according to people familiar with the matter, a setback for the automaker’s self-driving technology efforts.
Venkataramanan, who led the Dojo project for the past five years, left the electric car maker last month and asked to remain anonymous to discuss confidential information, the people said. Peter Bannon, former CEO of Apple Inc. Tesla’s director for the past seven years, he is now leading the project.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk and company representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Dojo system is a Tesla-designed supercomputer designed to train machine learning models behind the electric car maker’s self-driving systems. The computer takes the data captured by the vehicles and quickly processes it to improve the company’s algorithms. Analysts have said the dojo could be a key competitive advantage, and earlier this year Morgan Stanley estimated it could add 500 billion dollars Tesla value.
Musk said the automaker plans to invest more than… 1 billion dollars In Project Dojo by the end of 2024. The Tesla leader first shared his plans for the supercomputer in 2019 before officially announcing it in 2021.
The Dojo is powered by a custom D1 chip designed by Venkataramanan, Bannon, and a slew of other big names in the silicon industry. Venkataramanan previously worked at Advanced Micro Devices Inc., while Tesla has several other veteran chip design employees. The recently departed CEO created Tesla’s hardware and silicon teams in 2016.
In recent weeks, Tesla also installed hardware for a Dojo at a central location in Palo Alto, California, two of the people said. Dojo relied on multiple data centers in different locations.
As of Wednesday, Venkataramanan no longer appears in Tesla’s internal directories, one of the people said. At least one other group member has also left. It was not immediately possible to know the reason behind the departures, but they constitute a blow to the expensive and technologically advanced project.
Tesla previously relied on supercomputers from Nvidia Corp. to power its AI-based systems, while Dojo will compete with offerings from Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. And IBM. In July, Tesla said it had begun production of its Dojo supercomputer system. It is manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Ltd., the same chip maker used by Apple.
Last year, another major AI player left Tesla: Andrei Karpathy, who led the automaker’s AI efforts. Karpathy has since joined OpenAI.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”