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Tesla Autopilot system at the heart of an autonomous showdown between Mobileye and Tesla.

Posted in News

Tesla and Mobileye Spar Over Autonomous Autopilot
Tesla Autopilot system at the heart of an autonomous showdown between Mobileye and Tesla.

— Tesla and a former supplier are in a slugfest over accusations and statements about Tesla's "Autopilot" system.

Mobileye, a large Israel-based company, manufactures cameras, sensors, radar and software for use in cars as the U.S. marches toward "self-driving" vehicles. Until a few months ago, Mobileye created the system used by Tesla for its Autopilot feature that includes other features such as "autosteer" and automatic braking.

The brouhaha started after the May 2016 crash of a Tesla Model S that killed 40-year-old Joshua Brown in Florida. Brown, a former Navy SEAL, was killed when his car slammed into a tractor-trailer at a high rate of speed, sheering off the top of the car.

Tesla determined Autopilot was engaged when the crash occurred and based on the crash scene, Brown didn't take evasive action or brake to avoid the obstacle. At the same time, the car didn't take evasive action and automatic braking didn't engage, which means the car didn't "see" a problem.

Brown had previously praised the system and likely believed the cameras, sensors and radar would detect objects in the road and activate automatic braking in the car. That didn't happen, and Tesla blamed the problem on the cameras having trouble recognizing the white trailer crossing the road.

Later, Tesla said the radar system may not have worked as designed, but either way, the automaker was putting the blame on products from Mobileye.

With Tesla blaming the cameras or radar for the crash, Mobileye stepped in and said it was Tesla's idea to market the system with a self-driving name like "Autopilot" to give consumers a false sense of security about driving the car hands-free.

Mobileye says it brought its concerns to Tesla in May 2015 by telling the automaker the package was to assist a driver, not take control from a driver. Mobileye says it's position has always been the same, that is, the system should never be used without a driver's hands on the wheel.

Mobileye says there would be no need to blame cameras or radar for a crash if a driver pays attention and has their hands on the steering wheel. Mobileye says it terminated its relationship with Tesla as the automaker tried to lay blame on the technology, not the driver or Tesla's use of the word "Autopilot."

However, Tesla says it was the company that terminated the deal because the automaker was working on its own autonomous system and Mobileye saw it as a threat. Tesla argues it had no choice but to leave the relationship behind because Mobileye threatened to stop all future work on the system if Tesla didn't back down from making its own technology.

Mobileye responded and said all it knew was that Tesla had assembled a group of people to focus on the project, and the partnership had to end because Tesla is too reckless with consumer safety.

Although Mobileye may have its problems with Tesla, the company is working with another automaker to launch semi-autonomous technology to put on the roads. In July, Nissan announced Japanese drivers will have a chance to use a feature called ProPILOT when they buy a Nissan Serena minivan.

Nissan says it doesn't want confusion about what the system can do, so the automaker is making it clear ProPILOT is semi-autonomous driving technology that constantly needs interaction with a driver. Nissan warns that simply removing your hands from the steering wheel for more than a few seconds will deactivate the ProPILOT system.

Tesla Autopilot Update Version 8

In the midst of the bobbing and weaving with Mobileye and stuck in the middle of government investigations about the Autopilot system, Tesla is rolling out a new version that will allegedly make the vehicles safer to drive.

Tesla says the new system will rely primarily on radar, a change from when radar was added a few years ago as a way to improve Autopilot. The automaker had been relying more on image and camera systems to scan the surroundings, but radar will allegedly help the cars to "see" a 3-D image of its surroundings.

According to the automaker, the updated software will have access to six times as many radar objects providing more information per object. Additionally, the system will take snapshots every tenth of a second to create a 3-D image seen through most weather-related effects, such as fog and rain.

The new software update will allegedly control for two cars ahead using radar echo and the car will activate "autosteer" to avoid a 100 percent probable collision.

Changes are also coming to how a driver receives warnings. Autopilot currently gives a driver text and audio warnings to keep their hands on the steering wheel every time the system is engaged, something the new system will allegedly take up a notch.

The version 8 update will make a driver keep their hands on the wheel and ignoring the repeated warnings will cause the vehicle to automatically disengage the "autosteer" segment of Autopilot. The only way a driver can turn the system back on is to park the vehicle and engage the system again.

Tesla says the updated Autopilot software likely would have saved Joshua Brown from crashing head-on into the trailer and ripping off the top of the Model S.


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