Tesla Lambasted By Former Partner Mobileye Over Approach To Safety

Mobileye, which broke its ties with Tesla earlier this year, has accused the electric car manufacturer of “pushing the envelope in terms of safety” in the way it designed its Autopilot feature.

Amnon Shashua, chairman and chief technology officer of Israel-based Mobileye, which makes collision detection and driver assistance systems, said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday that the company had parted ways with Tesla due to safety concerns.

Ambiguous message

He said Mobileye felt Tesla was delivering ambiguous messages about its Autopilot, cautioning drivers to keep their hands on the wheel while boasting of the feature’s advanced capabilities.

Mobileye announced its break with Tesla in July following a fatal collision in May that involved Autopilot.

Shashua said Mobileye felt Tesla’s approach was damaging to his company and to the auto industry as a whole.

“Long term this is going to hurt the interests of the company and hurt the interests of an entire industry, if a company of our reputation will continue to be associated with this type of pushing the envelope in terms of safety,” he said.

‘Spin’

He said Tesla’s “spin” tended to over-represent the capabilities of what is intended only as a “driver assistance system”.

“It 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,” he said.

The incident, in which a Tesla Model S driver using Autopilot crashed into the side of a juggernaut lorry, has highlighted the risks inherent in automated driving technology at a time when the area is seeing heavy investment from car-makers and software companies alike.

Tesla has repeatedly stated that Autopilot, introduced last autumn, is not intended to make its cars drive themselves.

Safety update

At the same time, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk acknowledged on Sunday that as drivers become accustomed to the system they tend to grow over-confident in its capabilities, ignoring audible warnings to retake the wheel.

Tesla released an update to Autopilot on Sunday limiting its functions, but Musk acknowledged it would still allow hands-free driving for up to three minutes while following a car at motorway speeds.

“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,” Tesla stated on Wednesday. “Drivers must be prepared to take control at all times.”

Technology split

Tesla said in May that Mobileye was not able to keep pace with Tesla’s product advances, and added on Thursday that the company had disagreed with Tesla’s plan to use its own vision system in upcoming versions of Autopilot.

Mobileye “attempted to force Tesla to discontinue this development, pay them more and use their products in future hardware,” Tesla stated.

Uber became the first company to offer rides in autonomous vehicles in a pilot programme launched in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this week.

The vehicles, equipped with Uber’s own self-driving technology, proceed at slow speeds and are accompanied by a driver who frequently retakes the wheel.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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