Tesla, Mobileye to End Partnership Following Fatal Crash

Mobileye officials say the company needs to move away from traditional OEM-supplier relationships and become more of partner in car development.

autonomous vehicles

Car maker Tesla and Mobileye, which provides technologies for semiautonomous cars, will part ways in the wake of a fatal crash in Florida in May involving a self-driving test vehicle from Telsa using Mobileye products and a truck.

The accident involving the Tesla Model S car killed the vehicle's driver and came at a time when greater attention is being put onto the idea of cars eventually being able to drive without human intervention.

During a conference call to discuss the company's latest quarterly financial numbers, Mobileye officials said that the vendor's work with Tesla will end after the current contract runs out. Mobileye is working on the next generation of its vision-based platform—EyeQ4—which includes computer chips and algorithms designed to collect and analyze data in real time from cameras in a car.

Mobileye's relationship with Tesla won't continue beyond EyeQ3, according to Amnon Shashua, the company's co-founder, CTO and chairman. There was no indication when the contract with Tesla runs out.

"We continue to support and maintain the current Tesla Autopilot product plans," Shashua said during the conference call, according to a transcript on Seeking Alpha. "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."

However, he said that moving forward, Mobileye will transition from being a traditional supplier of products to OEMs and instead will embrace projects in which the company is more of a partner in developing driverless cars. He pointed to the recently announced partnership between Intel, Mobileye and BMW to develop autonomous cars that will be on the road by 2021 and that will use Mobileye's upcoming EyeQ5 technology.

Mobileye is developing the system-on-a-chip (SoC) EyeQ5 with longtime partner STMicroelectronics.

"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," Shashua said. "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 called such partnerships "a turning point in the auto industry" and "the start of a paradigm shift where partnerships among OEMs, Mobileye and additional players emerge in order to tackle together as equal partners the ambitious challenge of putting a safe level 4 autonomous vehicle on the road."

The partnership with Intel and BMW involves the development of level 3 and 4 vehicles. With level 3 cars, drivers can cede full control of a car in certain situations and then retake control when required. In level 4, the car takes control of all safety-critical functions for an entire trip without any human intervention.

Shashua declined to elaborate on Mobileye's relationship with Tesla despite questions from several financial analysts on the call.

In an email to The Wall Street Journal, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the split with Mobileye was expected and wouldn't impact the company's development plans for the Autopilot system.

Following the crash, the two companies had different views of what might have caused the crash. Tesla officials said the vehicle's Autopilot system had difficulty distinguishing between the white side of the box truck and an overhead sign while Mobileye officials noted that current automatic emergency braking (AEB) technologies aren't designed to be able to pick up vehicles crossing laterally in front of a vehicle. Instead, the goal is to avoid rear-end collisions.