By on September 16, 2016

Elon Musk + Tesla Model S Circa 2011

Tesla Motors isn’t backing down in its public falling out with Mobileye N.V., and neither is its former supplier.

This week has seen a constant back-and-forth between the two companies after Mobileye claimed it broke ties with Tesla after becoming concerned about the safety of its Autopilot system.

Clearly, it was a messy divorce.

Sparks flew on Wednesday after Mobileye chief technology officer Amnon Shashua told Reuters that his company, which supplied the camera used in Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous driving feature, backed out of the deal because Tesla was “pushing the envelope in terms of safety.”

The camera-guided system wasn’t “designed to cover all possible crash situations in a safe manner,” and couldn’t be counted on for hands-off driving, he claimed. The Israeli supplier’s exit came after Autopilot contributed to the death of Joshua Brown on a Florida highway in May.

Tesla, which plans to release a vastly updated Autopilot system next week, wasted no time firing back.

Yesterday, the automaker claimed Mobileye tried to force the company over a barrel before walking away. A Tesla spokesperson told Reuters that Mobileye, after learning that Tesla planned to upgrade Autopilot with new technology, “attempted to force Tesla to discontinue this development, pay them more and use their products in future hardware.”

The looming Autopilot upgrade uses radar as well as the car’s camera, as it did before, to guide the vehicle. The system aims to avoid the blind spots of a camera-only system, hopefully leading to fewer incidents.

According to Marketwatch, Mobileye didn’t take Tesla’s rebuttal lightly. It’s now accusing the automaker of lying. Mobileye claims it approached Tesla CEO Elon Musk in early 2015, before Autopilot’s rollout, declaring that the system was a driving aid and wasn’t safe for hands-off operation. Musk reportedly agreed, then introduced the system with a hands-off mode.

Following the fatal May crash (where a Model S driver collided with a transport truck after the Autopilot failed to recognize it), Musk allegedly blamed Mobileye. The supplier then packed its bags and split.

“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 company said in a statement. “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.”

If Musk’s past battles have taught us anything, we haven’t heard the last of this very conscious uncoupling.

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45 Comments on “Tesla, Former Supplier Continue their Vicious Public Row...”


  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    Musk is coming off as a total egotistical jackass with a temper and mentality that could be dangerous, if it hasn’t been already by his push of unproven technology, making end users beta testers.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Elon Musk is the Henry Ford of our era – visionary, industry-changing, controversial, intelligent, irascible (and he remarried his ex-wife??!!!!!!), and ultimately will be a historical figure along the lines of Howard Hughes, Leland Stanford and Henry Ford.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        But didn’t Henry Ford make a profit with his cars?

        I could be wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        OK.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        Elon Musk isn’t worthy of shining Henry Ford’s shoes.

        Henry Ford built his company from the ground up by finding investors that would believe in him, and he designed his own product.

        Elon Musk buys other people’s ideas and uses government money to make his companies and prop them up. And his actual contributions to products are unrealistic demands that delay development and incur massive cost overruns, such as the gullwing doors on the Model X.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          derekson,
          You have no sense of Henry Ford, or history. And stop with the ‘Tesla takes government money’ meme. It’s been debunked a hundred times here.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            It’s true, but the debunking part is “so did a lot of other car companies.”

          • 0 avatar
            jthorner

            Debunked? Not even close. Check out the LA Times article where they delineate $4.9B in government funding and subsidies to Musk’s various enterprises:

            http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hy-musk-subsidies-20150531-story.html

      • 0 avatar
        dash riprock

        I agree that Musk is a visionary. He has basically pushed forward the electrification of vehicles much quicker than other manufacturers could or would have. He has also consistently put his own dollars at risk to chase his visions.

        However, Tesla sure is looking more and more like a real shite show. They are hemorrhaging money. Seems that so much of their words and actions are focused on the next round of raising capital. Tesla may be a good vehicle to drive but eventually money does run out. Musk’s credibility is keeping the faithful in check for now.

      • 0 avatar
        whitworth

        No, he won’t be any of those things. More like John DeLorean when this is all over.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “Musk is coming off as a total egotistical jackass with a temper and mentality that could be dangerous”

      Sounds like he could be a presidential candidate.

      Oh forgot, just like Obama, he isn’t American ;)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Mobileye doesn’t want to be publicly slandered, risking future business.

    Tesla doesn’t want to be cornered or bullied by its suppliers (that’s Tesla’s role).

    Both should stand down and move on.

    This makes me wonder if Tesla’s other suppliers are trying to slink away from any Autopilot affiliation they might have; I would.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Marjoe Caught With 9 Year-Old, Sues Hotel.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Jack once called Musk the closest thing we have to a real life Ironman. I see him more as a modern Howard Roark – the protagonist in The Fountainhead. Builder of a new company changing an industry with fresh design and all that.

    The funny thing for me is seeing how much the Ayn Rand fanboys absolutely HATE Musk. I’m not sure if its jealousy or just that they’ve been so well trained to have a knee jerk reaction against anything entrepreneurial, built in America or helpful to the environment.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “entrepreneurial, built in America or helpful to the environment”

      I hate all those things!

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The vitriolic right-wingers loathe Tesla because of the subsidies. The Howard Roark character may have been a verbose rapist, but the government didn’t throw cash and prizes in his direction, either.

      (I wish someone had subsidized me for reading it. What a tedious book.)

    • 0 avatar
      jthorner

      Libertarians dislike Musk because of his constant use of government funds across his various businesses.

    • 0 avatar
      tnk479

      Government created a set of conditions for a company like Tesla to emerge in such a way that the peasants would all think it was due to genius and innovation and good old fashioned capitalism.

      http://articles.latimes.com/2013/may/05/business/la-fi-electric-cars-20130506

      You see the problem with government is that it decided that it wants electric cars and it stamped its feet and it will have them one way or another.

      A government who wants to use the power of markets would either tax gasoline or tax carbon in some fashion and leave it up to the market place to figure the rest out. Of course, then the average tax payer would know about this and complain to their Congress-critters — politicians could then be held accountable and there is nothing they dislike more.

      Looking around a bit, I would say that Elio Motors looks more like a Howard Roark sort of operation. They’re building a $7,300 way to drive around that is safe and gets over 80 mpg. It’s not sexy and everyone hates it, but, it addresses a lot of the requirements of automotive transportation in today’s world. Elio is ignored by the political left who claim to care so much about the environment and the poor.

      Elon Musk is going to run out of other people’s money at some point. General Motors isn’t making any profit on their new Bolt and they have been manufacturing cars for over a hundred years. Tesla doesn’t have any better technology than LG Chem. Tesla’s day of reckoning will arrive when their institutional investor shareholders finally start asking their super star Ironman CEO some tough questions.

  • avatar
    mcs

    MobilEye claims to make a product that automatically brakes the car. Why would an automatic braking system require hands on the steering wheel? The Florida crash wasn’t a failure of autopilot steering/lane keeping, it was a failure of the auto-braking function. MobilEye is trying to build a system with a single camera rather than multiples saving manufacturers a couple of dollars per car. It’s a cheap system that Tesla should have never used. I think NHTSA needs to take a look at other cars with MobilEye auto-braking.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      NHTSA needs to eliminate Level 2 autonomous mode (and really rework their permitted definitions altogether), since customers don’t understand its limitations.

      • 0 avatar

        This limitation thing…

        I drive cars. Cars do not drive me.

        When I drive a car I pretty rapidly learn what it’s cornering limits are. What it’s braking limits are. What it’s acceleration curve is. I drive the car within all of it’s limits.

        It seems to me that autonomous cars have a really hard time knowing what it’s own physical limits are.

        I’d rather be driven by any of you than let a computer sort out how to drive me around.

    • 0 avatar
      CH1

      MobilEye doesn’t supply complete AEB systems to automakers. It supplies components mainly to tier 1 suppliers who in turn supply automakers with components for AEB and other ADAS. Each automaker is responsible for the final design of the systems which often use sensors, such as radar, from other suppliers.

      Many automakers use MobilEye-sourced components but the final systems have a wide range of performance characteristics and limitations.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      MobilEye just makes the sensors, the software/firmware to control the car is Tesla.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @jimz: MobileEye does provide the software/firmware for the sensors. I’ve tried the one-camera thing myself because I was experimenting with using DSLRs and expensive lenses. Going single camera is just not worth the trade-offs in my personal opinion.

        This article mentions their algorithm in a couple of places.

        http://www.mobileye.com/technology/applications/vehicle-detection/forward-colision-warning/

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          the MobilEye software tells the car what it sees. the car needs its own software to decide how to act on what the camera is telling it.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @jimz: Actuallly, I think we’re in agreement.

            MobilEye is doing quite a bit of processing to the images and deriving data based on those images. The data derived from the images is probably what they are providing to the OEM.

            According to their website, they are performing sign recognition, pedestrian recognition, and I’m sure there is distance data there as well. While the OEMs have to do some coding, but most of the data-crunching is on the MobilEye side. That’s also the area with the highest risk of failure.

            Personally, I think Tesla made some bad choices and should have known better. They selected the system and should have tested it better. I’m a Tesla fan, but the whole auto-pilot debacle has shaken my confidence in them a bit..

  • avatar
    CH1

    The NHTSA is probably very interested in seeing the communications between MobilEye and Tesla.

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    I think Mobileye is correctly concerned about liability. The whole concept is being oversold.

  • avatar
    NutellaBC

    I worked as a subcontractor for Tesla, testing some functions of the Autopilot over the course of several months.
    The amount of near misses and false positive was mind boggling. The scariest part was how the software updates were pushed to the customer before even looking at the poor testing results on prototypes. At the end of the testing cycle, I was pretty much treated like radioactive material kept away from anyone with influence. Pretty sad state of affair, and quite frankly a toxic work atmosphere.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      I know a couple of people who work for companies doing production line tooling, and they say Tesla is their worst customer. They don’t understand you can’t make daily changes to hard tooling and fixtures.

      • 0 avatar
        CH1

        Nutella, Tesla is about to do the same thing with Autopilot 8.0, which Musk says will use radar in ways it has never been used before by anyone. The radar will become the primary sensor instead of the camera. Musk hopes to release 8.0 to the public this month.

        So on Sep 11 a reporter asked how long it has been in development.

        Musk: “It’s something that I wanted to do for a while. Probably since late last year, but I was always told that it wasn’t possible, you can’t do it, it’s not gonna work, nobody else has made it work, software is too hard, sensor is not good enough, but I really pushed hard on questioning all those assumptions last 3 or 4 months. Like there got to be a way to make this work and now we believe that there is.”

        A major re-architecture into uncharted territory of a safety-related system in only 3-4 months! What could possibly go wrong?

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          “What could possibly go wrong?”

          Set back autonomous car acceptance with the general public by a few decades.

          Oh and some pesky peon deaths.

          Cost of business and all that rot.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Nutella

      Fascinating, truly. If you feel like you can go on I’d love to read more about this.

      • 0 avatar
        CH1

        Tedward, there were a few articles about this a couple months ago.

        http://money.cnn.com/2016/07/28/technology/elon-musk-tesla-autopilot/

      • 0 avatar
        NutellaBC

        Back then, the auto brake system had a tendency to be blind to fairly high riding vehicles such as the bumper of a school bus. I don’t personally understand why some school buses have such high rear bumpers but that’s a real life scenario. The system was I believe picking up the rear axle rather than the bumper as being the “barrier” to stop at. Other scenarios were vehicles stopped in the shade or vehicles stopped a couple feet inside a poorly lit tunnel in sunny weather ….and much more. These scenarios were identified and recorded multiple times. Puzzling to hear that not much or not enough was done about it.
        I had a feeling that the bright kids doing the software were not aware that it was not for a video game and the engineering dpt was really subpar and politically driven compared to my usual employer.

    • 0 avatar
      jthorner

      Tesla is using the consumer software business model for life and death applications. There are good reasons why transportation applications of software development normally are released at a much slower rate than Google maps changes!

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Elon went to the mountain and came back with a Tweet (stone tables are so out) that says:

    “Thou shall not ever question Elon Musk or any of his corporations.”

  • avatar
    NickS

    Mobileye is not a total solution, it never was meant to be. They are nowhere near able to provide an end to end product. Thia is all on the automaker.

    Tesla has a big problem – trying to reach volume and become profitable asap. Partly because of that and mostly because of EM’s personality they are rushing crap-tech just to grab headlines and the early adopter wallets. Some owners buy Teslas but don’t use the crappy parts.

    The other part is that they are doing level 2 which is a lot harder in one critical sense. It would be easier to do full autonomy but that still requires a very strong commitment to it all, as well as a solid multi-modal sensor set integrated into a unified whole. There are some AI bits that are not trivial either. You need some deep learning bits that are not at all settled science.

    To design a solid safe system requires the opposite of tesla.

    I’ve worked with one company in the lidar space mostly with the deep learning and image analysis parts. The more serious players in the tech world are focused on other automakers, Ford, etc.

    I work in the valley and EM attracts either fawning followers or avid haters. Drive to innovate and disruption is everywhere around here but most of the people I work with have a hard time with personality like that. In my career, I’ve seen time and again all the smart people leave to get away from the drama and upheaval. No one wants to be associated with that.

    • 0 avatar
      jthorner

      “In my career, I’ve seen time and again all the smart people leave to get away from the drama and upheaval. No one wants to be associated with that.”

      Amen to that. The EM types end up surrounded by sycophants who will put up with their nonsense just to be close to a celebrity.


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