Tesla Fires Back At Mobileye’s Claim It Broke Up With Carmaker Over Autopilot Safety

Image courtesy of (Nicholas Eckhart)

Yesterday, automotive tech company Mobileye claimed that it stopped providing parts for Tesla’s Autopilot assisted-driving system over concerns the carmaker was “pushing the envelope in terms of safety.” Now Tesla is firing back, saying the breakup occurred because Mobileye was unhappy to learn that Tesla planned to take over manufacturing of some Autopilot components.

A Tesla spokeswoman tells Reuters that after Mobileye found out that an upcoming version of Autopilot would use a Tesla-built vision system, Mobileye became defensive and ultimately broke ties with the company.

Tesla claims that Mobileye tried to get the carmaker to discontinue its own development, pay the supplier more, and use only its products for future hardware.

The carmaker allegedly declined, and the two companies went their separate ways.

“When Tesla refused to cancel its own vision development activities and plans for deployment, Mobileye discontinued hardware support for future platforms and released public statements implying that this discontinuance was motivated by safety concerns,” the Tesla spokeswoman said.

Tesla’s take on the breakup stands in stark contrast to Mobileye executives’ explanation given on Thursday.

The company said it had parted ways with Tesla because the electric car company was sending mixed messages that Autopilot was something that it wasn’t: an autonomous driving product.

For example, Mobileye says Tesla boasted about Autopilot’s autonomous capabilities, while also telling drivers they must keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

Autopilot — which steers the vehicle more actively than other automated safety systems like automatic braking, steering assist, or adaptive cruise control — has come under heavy scrutiny following a fatal May 2016 crash during which the system was in use.

“It is not designed to cover all possible crash situations in a safe manner,” Amnon Shashua, chairman for Mobileye, tells Reuters. “No matter how you spin it, (Autopilot) is not designed for that. It is a driver assistance system and not a driverless system.”

A spokesperson for Tesla tells Reuters that Mobileye’s statements are “inaccurate.”

“Since the release of Autopilot, we’ve continuously educated customers on the use of the features, reminding them that they’re responsible to keep their hands on the wheel and remain alert and present when using Autopilot,” the spokeswoman said. “Drivers must be prepared to take control at all times.”

After the potential Autopilot connection to the fatal crash was revealed in June, Tesla announced it was taking steps to ensure the safety of drivers who use Autopilot.

In July, Musk said the company wouldn’t disable the function, but would instead increase efforts to educate owners on how the system works and what to expect when using it.

UPDATE: In a statement Friday morning, Moibileye claims that accusations it stopped working with Tesla because the carmaker planned to make some of its own components for the Autopilot feature are “incorrect and can be refuted by the facts.”

“It has long been Mobileye’s position that Tesla’s Autopilot should not be allowed to operate hands-free without proper and substantial technological restrictions and limitations,” Mobileye says, noting that it began raising concerns about Autopilot’s safety in 2015.

Following the May crash, Mobileye said be became clear the company could no longer work with Tesla.

“As for Tesla’s claim that Mobileye was threatened by Tesla’s internal computer vision efforts, the company has little knowledge of these efforts other than an awareness that Tesla had put together a small team,” the company said.

Tesla says Mobileye balked after learning carmaker to make own cameras [Reuters]