In an announcement that got the auto world really buzzing, Mobileye said it is parting ways with Tesla. Mobileye are the manufacturers of the software that controls Tesla’s Autopilot. Autopilot is the name Tesla christened the collection of softwares in their semi autonomous cars responsible for keeping the cars on their lanes without the aid of a driver.
The Autopilot is also able to recognize road and street markings and able to either stop or accelerate depending on the variables that are a constant in commuting. Though, the Autopilot is not a complete substitute for drivers as Tesla always warns drivers of Tesla cars.
In making the announcement about the end of their relationship with Tesla, Mobileye were aware of the fact links would be made with the two prominent accidents involving Tesla cars in recent times.
The most talked about is the crash that occurred in May. This happened in Florida when the Tesla car, reportedly on Autopilot, smash into a truck that turned in front of the car. The passenger/driver, Joshua Brown, lost his life in the accident.
The sticking point for most people was the feeling that an accident like that should not happen to a Tesla car. There was a public outcry following the accident. Mostly fuelled by alarmist online columnist trying to feed into the fear of new technology. It worked.
Because many started calling for an outright end or ban to autonomous cars. Consumer Reports, who should have known better, even joined the bandwagon on the call for a ban to be placed on these cars.
So this break between Tesla and Mobileye could be seen by many as one of Tesla’s responses to calls for reforms. Perhaps they want the world to believe they are doing something to address a faulty software in their cars. Or it could be that, Mobileye are uncomfortable with being linked with cars that are already having a bad reputation for crashing easily.
And crashing easily is just a fallacy. There have being only two recorded accidents of note involving the cars. That is not even up to a blip in the overall stats of accidents worldwide. But Tesla being Tesla, cutting them down to size would make good copy in the news
Mobileye or Tesla did not tell the world why they are ending the contract between the two companies. All the world knew is what Mobileye Chairman, Amnon Shashua, told the company in their quarterly earnings call yesterday.
For now though, the company would continue to work with Tesla for the current Autopilot software known as EyeQ3. Basically, providing support and upgrades to the system. So the partnership is still intact as long as Tesla are using the EyeQ3.
In the tech world, speculations are very rife that it was Tesla that initiated the move to end the partnership. This is because they are trying to develop their own self-driving software. And they have invited an engineer who specializes in autonomous car softwares to explore that possibility further.
So it won’t be a surprised if Tesla announced the hiring of George Hotz, the specialist, in the future to oversee a division in Tesla to develop customized software for Tesla’s Autopilot.
As for Mobileye, the end of the relationship with Tesla is definitely not the end of the world. The numbers in their released financial results show that Tesla accounted for only 1% of their earnings.
However it was their relationship with Tesla that helped it get lucrative contracts with other auto giants. The most recent contract was with BMW and Intel. The plan is to make fully autonomous cars by the year 2021.
Here is what the company said about the future of the company:
Nevertheless, in our view, moving toward 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.”
image credits: drivingsales.com; wsj.com; wccftech.com