In July, Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) saw a major breakup with its technology supplier Mobileye NV that it had been working with, for long three years. The Israel-based driverless car software provider makes camera sensors and other software; it had been supplying the auto giant with technology for its semi-autonomous Autopilot feature used in Model X and Model S electric vehicles (EV).
Notably, the breakup was announced shortly after the first reported fatality from the Autopilot features. And since then, the two enterprises have severed ties, with Mobileye asserting that it sought to focus more on comprehensive alliances such as the ones it has inked with Intel Corporation and BMW. The supplier is now no longer a part of Tesla’s self-driving vehicle projects other than the current EyeQ3.
However, in the latest war of words it is now apparent that the separation wasn’t as friendly as one had expected. It seems like the two companies have been in this tussle for weeks following Mobileye’s announcement that it would no longer be providing algorithms and computer chips to Tesla. The fight kicked off when Mobileye CTO, Amnon Shashua, said that the company ended its association with the EV maker since it was “pushing the safety envelope too far,” in how it developed the Autopilot system.
The automaker then fired back with its own fiery reaction to the claim, saying that the supplier wasn’t too happy when it was told that Tesla would develop its own vision chips to be used for the Autopilot feature. The company added yesterday that Mobileye had disregarded the safety of the assisted autopilot feature after Tesla’s decision came to its notice.
Tesla’s feisty response further fueled fire to the corporate battle as they blame each other for the separation and talk about factors that contributed to the crash. Its claim now suggests that the supplier attempted to stop the auto maker from making its in-house automated driving technology. Tesla spokesperson said: “the company has been developing its own vision capability in-house for some time with the goal of accelerating performance improvements […] After learning that Tesla would be deploying this product, Mobileye attempted to force Tesla to discontinue this development, pay them more, and use their products in future hardware.”
Soon following this, Mobileye issued a press release today, calling these accusations baselessly “incorrect” with the company having little knowledge of the auto maker trying to build its own vision system. The supplier only knew to the extent that Tesla had put together a small team to contemplate building a vision system for the autopilot feature itself.
Mr. Shashua bashed Tesla’s autopilot feature in his interview this week, saying that the feature isn’t designed to “cover all possible crash situations in a safe manner.” His allegations came the same day another fatal accident was brought to notice through a lawsuit filing by a man whose son had died while driving a Model S in Autopilot mode. Tesla immediately responded that it constantly educates drivers that they should keep the control of the vehicle in check; the company’s salesmen have numerously demonstrated how drivers ought to keep their hands on the wheel while using the autopilot feature.
Tesla’s strong defense of its semi-autonomous feature reinforces the huge stakes involved in the battle to perfect autopilot features as customers’ safety comes into question. The company also needs to assure regulators that its innovative systems are safe.