Tesla Autopilot supplier Mobileye cuts ties with electric car maker

Mobileye cites reputational concerns, while Elon Musk says the split was inevitable

One of the component makers for Tesla's Autopilot system has announced it will no longer be working with the electric car maker, following an apparent breakdown in relations between the two firms.

The company, Mobileye, is one of the biggest names in vehicle automation, and Autopilot runs on the company's EyeQ system-on-a-chip (SoC). It is also thought that the Israeli firm provides other components, although neither it nor Tesla has ever confirmed what these are.

During the company's Q2 2016 earnings call yesterday, Mobileye co-founder and CTO Amnon Shashua announced the organisation's collaboration with Tesla "will not extend beyond EyeQ3" - the company's current chip - hinting at concerns its relationship with Tesla could lead to reputational damage.

"We continue to support and maintain the current Tesla Autopilot product plans. This includes the significant upgrade of several functions that affect both our ability to respond to crash avoidance and to optimize auto-steering in the near-term without any hardware updates," said Shashua, according to a transcript of the call published by Seeking Alpha.

"Nevertheless, in our view, moving forward, more advanced autonomy is a paradigm shift both in terms of function complexity and the need to ensure an extremely high level of safety. There is much at stake here to Mobileye's reputation and to the industry at large. Mobileye believes that achieving this objective requires partnerships that go beyond the typical OEM supplier relationship, such as our recently announced collaboration with BMW and Intel. Mobileye will continue to pursue similar such relationships," he added.

However, despite questions from several analysts and investors, neither he nor any of the other Mobileye executives provided any further details on what had led to the split.

Mobileye and Tesla had something of a public spat in early July when reports of the death of a Tesla driver using Autopilot first began to emerge.

The crash, which claimed the life of Ohio man Joshua Brown, happened on 7 May when a white lorry turned in front of the car while it was in self-driving "Autopilot" mode. Neither the car's system nor the driver applied the brakes before impact.

On 1 July, Dan Galves, Mobileye's chief communications officer, issued a statement saying: "Today's collision avoidance technology, or Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) is defined as rear-end collision avoidance, and is designed specifically for that. This incident involved a laterally crossing vehicle, which current-generation AEB systems are not designed to actuate upon."

Later that day, however, Tesla issued a statement rebuffing Mobileye's comments, stating: "Since January 2016, Autopilot activates automatic emergency braking in response to any interruption of the ground plane in the path of the vehicle that cross-checks against a consistent radar signature."

Reacting to Mobileye's CTO's comments, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the two companies parting ways was "somewhat inevitable", according to USA Today.

"There's nothing unexpected here from our standpoint," said Musk. "We're committed to autonomy. They'll go their way, and we'll go ours."

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