Mobileye Chairman Zings Tesla Autopilot for ‘Pushing the Envelope in Terms of Safety’

Tesla’s Autopilot clashed with Mobileye’s system enough for the Israel-based maker of collision detection and driver assistance systems to have broken ties with the electric carmaker, Mobileye’s chairman said on Wednesday.

Tesla has been “pushing the envelope in terms of safety” with the design of its Autopilot driver-assistance system, said Amnon Shashua, who also serves as chief technology officer at Mobileye.

“It is not designed to cover all possible crash situations in a safe manner,” Shashua said in an interview with Reuters. “No matter how you spin it, [Autopilot] is not designed for that. It is a driver assistance system and not a driverless system.”

The comments escalate a public rift rarely seen in the industry between automakers and suppliers.

Mobileye had announced its split with Tesla in July after news broke of the May fatality in Florida of a Tesla driver using the Autopilot system. Tesla responded in a statement that Mobileye could not keep pace with Tesla’s product changes.

“Our parting ways was inevitable,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at a press conference in late July.

A Tesla spokeswoman said Wednesday the company had never described Autopilot as a driverless system.

“Since the release of Autopilot, we’ve continuously educated customers on the use of the features, reminding them that they’re responsible to keep their hands on the wheel and remain alert and present when using Autopilot,” the spokeswoman said.

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Last fall, YouTube videos spread showing Tesla drivers using Autopilot and taking their hands of the wheel. That prompted Musk to express concern about drivers doing “crazy things.” Tesla announced in January that it would be modifying the system.

Pressure has been increasing on Tesla this week after Chinese media reported a fatal January crash in that country that may have involved the Autopilot system.

Shashua said the company had reservations about mixed messages coming from Tesla about Autopilot. Those messages ranged from boasting about Autopilot’s capacities to cautioning drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, he said.

“Long term this is going to hurt the interests of the company and hurt the interests of an entire industry, if a company of our reputation will continue to be associated with this type of pushing the envelope in terms of safety,” Shashua said.

Mobileye has 27 automakers as customers for its collision detection systems, which makes up about 70 percent of the current market.

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