Tesla just lost a key player on its mapping team.
Bill Chen, who headed up Tesla’s maps and navigation division for two years, has left the company, according to a report from The Information. Before joining Tesla, Chen worked at Apple on the company’s mapping team. It’s unclear where he is going.
Mapping systems play a vital role in the development of self-driving cars. Highly detailed maps are necessary for autonomous cars to operate safely.
In October of last year, Tesla revealed its plan to use Model S and Model X vehicles already on the road along with cloud technology to map streets around the world. CEO Elon Musk described this as a “fleet learning network.”
Basically, if one car goes down a road, that mapping information is uploaded to a cloud database so that all Tesla vehicles can share that information and learn from its journey.
It’s a clever way of collecting detailed mapping information and could give the company an edge over the competition.
Google and Apple both use fleet cars to drive around collecting mapping data, but Tesla’s approach helps it collect information on a broader basis.
It’s unclear how Chen’s departure will affect Tesla’s mapping efforts to improve Autopilot, but given the importance maps play for self-driving cars, there’s the possibility it could be a setback.
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