The battle is on. Tesla is accusing Mobileye, a former supplier, of blocking the development of its own proprietary vision system used in the Autopilot driver-assistance feature. Image: Getty
Tesla claims Mobileye tried to interfere with the development of its proprietary vision system by forcing Tesla to pay more for parts that it was selling to the electric car company, and by making Tesla promise to use its products in the future releases. When the automaker refused to meet the outrageous demands, Tesla says that Mobileye discontinued hardware support for Tesla vehicles and made several disparaging comments about the company.
In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Mobileye CTO Amnon Shashua said Tesla was "pushing the envelope in terms of safety". He explained the accusation, saying, "[Autopilot] is not designed to cover all possible crash situations in a safe manner... No matter how you spin it, [Autopilot] is not designed for that. It is a driver-assistance system and not a driverless system."
Mobileye has responded to the new allegations in a statement that suggests Tesla is misleading customers by calling its driver-assistance mode "Autopilot", insinuating that the car can control itself without any human intervention. The statement goes as far as accusing Tesla CEO Elon Musk of ignoring safety concerns raised by Mobileye's CEO.
Here's part of the Mobileye statement:
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. In communications dating back to May 2015 between Mobileye Chairman and Tesla's CEO, Mobileye expressed safety concerns regarding the use of Autopilot hands-free. After a subsequent face to face meeting, Tesla's CEO confirmed that activation of Autopilot would be "hands on." Despite this confirmation, Autopilot was rolled out in late 2015 with a hands-free activation mode. Mobileye has made substantial efforts since then to take more control on how this project can be steered to a proper functional safety system.
The spat is re-opening the conversation about the safety of Tesla vehicles and its Autopilot driver-assistance mode. In June, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the first fatal crash while a driver was using autopilot mode. And this week, a report from China surfaced alleging the first fatality involving the car's Autopilot mode happened in January.
For now, Tesla is staying committed to its Autopilot feature. The company announced it will release an update to its vehicles this week that will add increased reliance on the radar sensor used when autopilot is engaged. The vehicles currently use a camera as a its primary control sensor.