We reported earlier today on comments made by Mobileye CTO Amnon Shashua about what is starting to look like an ugly breakup between the Israel-based maker of driver assistance systems and Tesla. He claimed that Tesla was “pushing the envelope in terms of safety” and that the company wasn’t comfortable with it.

But now Tesla is painting an entirely different picture of the reasons behind the end of the supply relationship. In doing so, Tesla confirmed its in-house ‘Tesla Vision’ product for computer vision and it depicted shady alleged business practices at Mobileye.

The computer vision system behind the front-facing camera of the Autopilot is currently powered by Mobileye and its EyeQ3 chip – the picture above is what Mobileye’s latest system can see. Tesla says that it decided to develop its own computer vision system – we previously reported that Tesla hired a lot of computer vision experts.

According to a Tesla spokesperson in a statement sent to Electrek today, Mobileye tried to convince Tesla to keep using its system for future generations of the Autopilot, but when it became apparent that Tesla was sticking to its new in-house system, which the company confirmed today is called ‘Tesla Vision’, they threaten to discontinue supply of the EyeQ3 chip to cripple the current version of the Autopilot.

Tesla lists a few demands that Mobileye apparently requested for the EyeQ3 chips to keep coming for Tesla’s current production cars:

  • Raising the price of their product retroactively
  • Demanding an agreement to extremely unfavorable terms of sale and
  • Demanding that Tesla not use data that was collected by its vehicles’ cameras for any purpose other than helping MobilEye develop its products
  • Requiring that Tesla collaborate on Tesla Vision and source future vision processing from them until at least level 4

The Tesla spokesperson said that the automaker refused to comply to the demands and that’s when Mobileye made its public announcement that it was ending its relationship with Tesla – though it continued shipping the EyeQ3 chip.

While this whole situation is certainly unfortunate, at least now we learn of ‘Tesla Vision’, which will power the computer vision technology in Tesla’s next generation Autopilot. We will try to find out more and report back.

Here’s Tesla statement in full:

Recent statements made by MobilEye about Tesla Autopilot are inaccurate.
Here are the facts:
 

MobilEye had knowledge of and collaboration with Tesla on Autopilot functionality for the past 3 years.

Tesla has been developing its own vision capability in-house for some time with the goal of accelerating performance improvements. After learning that Tesla would be deploying this product, MobilEye attempted to force Tesla to discontinue this development, pay them more, and use their products in future hardware.

In late July when it became apparent to MobilEye that Tesla planned to use its own vision software in future Autopilot platforms, MobilEye made several demands of Tesla in exchange for continuing supply of first generation hardware, including:
  • Raising the price of their product retroactively
  • Demanding an agreement to extremely unfavorable terms of sale and
  • Demanding that Tesla not use data that was collected by its vehicles’ cameras for any purpose other than helping MobilEye develop its products
  • Requiring that Tesla collaborate on Tesla Vision and source future vision processing from them until at least level 4

When Tesla refused to cancel its own vision development activities and plans for deployment, MobilEye discontinued hardware support for future platforms and released public statements implying that this discontinuance was motivated by safety concerns.

While Tesla’s Autopilot has received more attention in the press as arguably one of the most refined such implementations on the road*, its feature set and hands-on requirements are very similar to other such systems, many of which use MobilEye vision products. In its current form, Autopilot is an advanced driver assistance system that maintains lane positioning while adjusting vehicle speed in the context of surrounding traffic. At no time has Tesla ever said or implied that Autopilot makes a car Autonomous or “self-driving” any more than autopilot on a plane, after which it is named, makes a plane self-flying. Any third-party descriptions to this effect are not accurate.
Since the release of Autopilot, we’ve continuously educated customers on the use of these features, reminding them that they’re responsible to keep their hands on the wheel and remain alert and present when using Autopilot. The Autosteer feature is off by default and must be enabled through the “Driver Assistance” tab in vehicle settings, where the user must agree to a dialogue box describing the system as “Beta” (to reduce complacency) and instructing them to pay attention to the road at all times. Every time the feature is subsequently activated, the user is reminded of this agreement with both visual and audible alerts. Failure to comply results in a rapidly-escalating sequence of audible and visual alerts, followed by deactivation of the Autosteer feature.
*Independent studies of Autopilot performance relative to similar Level 2 systems
  • Car & Driver: ~2x better than the next closest competitor (29 interventions vs. 56 for the BMW 7-Series)
  • Autofill: ~10x better than the next closest comparison (3 interventions on the Model S vs. 31 for the E-Class)
  • Motor Trend: 6-9x better than the next best system (12 interventions for the Model S vs. 113 for the S-Class)
  • The Drive: “Without a doubt, [Autopilot] is the best ADAS system on the market.”

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