In a conference call discussing its second quarter financial results today, Mobileye confirmed that it will end its partnership with Tesla for the development of the Autopilot program. Tesla’s Autopilot system was designed in-house by the automaker and uses several different components, but Mobileye was an important partner supplying its EyeQ chip which processes the information from the Autopilot sensor’s suite.
The reason for the two companies parting ways is not entirely clear at this point, but based on Mobileye CTO Amnon Shashua’s comments, it might have something to do with the aftermath of the fatal Autopilot accident in a Model S, which first surfaced a few weeks ago.
The relationship between Tesla and Mobileye has been complicated over the past year. We reported last December that Tesla CEO Elon Musk offered a “multimillion-dollar bonus” to hacker George ‘Geohot’ Hotz to build a system to replace Mobileye’s, but the company quickly issued a statement claiming that they plan on using Mobileye’s technology “going forward”, especially its EyeQ chip.
Following this incident, we published several reports on Tesla hiring top SoC talent for the Autopilot program including our exclusive report that Tesla hired legendary chip architect Jim Keller from AMD as new “Vice-President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering”, and Peter Bannon followed him at Tesla just a few weeks later and finally our report on Tesla poaching a team of high-profile chip architects and executives from AMD to develop the next generation Autopilot under Keller’s leadership.
While these experts have immense experience developing chips and they were confirmed working on the Autopilot hardware, we couldn’t confirm if they were indeed developing a chip at Tesla. They could also be working on other hardware for the program.
Yet based on comments from Mobileye’s CTO, Amnon Shashua, it might have nothing to do with the reason the companies are parting ways.
After announcing the decision in the call, he referenced the public comments the two companies exchanged following the fatal Model S Autopilot crash. We reported on the comments from Mobileye saying that its Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) technology wasn’t meant to avoid the impact.
Tesla responded to the comment by down playing Mobileye’s role in the Autopilot system and saying that the company developed its own automatic emergency braking technology on the system, which could have theoretically prevented the accident, but the reasons it didn’t are circumstantial to other conditions during the crash.
You can read the full statements from both sides here.
While not directly saying that they parted ways because of this incident, Shashua implied that the public statements showed that the two companies have different points of view on autonomous and semi-autonomous driving.
When asked if they could maybe work again with Tesla, he quoted Henry Kissinger:
“America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests”
Mobileye confirmed that they will continue to supply Tesla with the EyeQ3 chip, which is currently in Tesla’s vehicles, but the upcoming EyeQ4 and 5 chips, which are required for more advanced autonomous features, will apparently not be part of Tesla’s Autopilot program going forward.
We contacted Tesla to comment on the news and we will update if we get an answer.
Update: Tesla refused to offically comment on the situation.
Someone familiar with the matter said that Tesla plans to bring Mobileye’s part in the Autopilot, namely the camera processing software, in-house.