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Home » Talent War Escalates As Tesla’s Vision Chief Ethan Knight Jumps to Musk’s xAI

Talent War Escalates As Tesla’s Vision Chief Ethan Knight Jumps to Musk’s xAI

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The battle for AI talent has claimed another casualty at Tesla. Ethan Knight, who led the automaker’s computer vision efforts critical to self-driving ambitions, has departed for a role at Elon Musk’s xAI startup.

In a series of X tweet, Musk acknowledged Ethan Knight’s exit while downplaying his role as not quite the “vision chief” it may have seemed, “Ethan is very talented, but “vision chief” would be overstating things. There are over 200 excellent engineers in the Tesla AI/Autonomy team”. Elon claimed Ethan “was going to join OpenAI, so it was either xAI or them.”

Musk depicted an extreme scenario playing out across the AI field. “The talent war for AI is the craziest talent war I’ve ever seen!” he exclaimed, accusing the likes of OpenAI of “aggressively recruiting Tesla engineers with massive compensation offers.”

The fighting words suggest Ethan Knight’s jump to xAI from Tesla’s Autopilot team was merely the latest skirmish in a broader AI brain drain hitting the automaker’s ranks. Musk insisted “Tesla’s pace of progress with autonomy is accelerating” despite losing a key computer vision lead.

Pay Raises For Remaining Tesla AI Team

So is Tesla simply being outgunned when it comes to lucrative job offers for its prized AI and autonomy talent? Not quite, if Musk’s claims are to be believed.

Elon said Tesla is “increasing comp (contingent on progress milestones) of our AI engineering team” to try and stem the talent bleed. It’s a sensible move considering the pivotal role advanced AI plays in Tesla’s self-driving strategy and Musk’s bigger ambitions around artificial general intelligence.

Still, the stakes are clearly escalating in the bitter fight to recruit – and retain – the industry’s top AI minds. And with Musk himself controlling multiple battlefronts through Tesla and his own AI ventures, this talent tug-of-war may just be getting started.

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