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Tesla, Former Supplier Continue their Vicious Public Row

Elon Musk + Tesla Model S Circa 2011

Tesla Motors isn’t backing down in its public falling out with Mobileye N.V., and neither is its former supplier.

This week has seen a constant back-and-forth between the two companies after Mobileye claimed it broke ties with Tesla after becoming concerned about the safety of its Autopilot system.

Clearly, it was a messy divorce.

Sparks flew on Wednesday after Mobileye chief technology officer Amnon Shashua told Reuters that his company, which supplied the camera used in Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous driving feature, backed out of the deal because Tesla was “pushing the envelope in terms of safety.â€�

The camera-guided system wasn’t “designed to cover all possible crash situations in a safe manner,” and couldn’t be counted on for hands-off driving, he claimed. The Israeli supplier’s exit came after Autopilot contributed to the death of Joshua Brown on a Florida highway in May.

Tesla, which plans to release a vastly updated Autopilot system next week, wasted no time firing back.

Yesterday, the automaker claimed Mobileye tried to force the company over a barrel before walking away. A Tesla spokesperson told Reuters that Mobileye, after learning that Tesla planned to upgrade Autopilot with new technology, “attempted to force Tesla to discontinue this development, pay them more and use their products in future hardware.”

The looming Autopilot upgrade uses radar as well as the car’s camera, as it did before, to guide the vehicle. The system aims to avoid the blind spots of a camera-only system, hopefully leading to fewer incidents.

According to Marketwatch, Mobileye didn’t take Tesla’s rebuttal lightly. It’s now accusing the automaker of lying. Mobileye claims it approached Tesla CEO Elon Musk in early 2015, before Autopilot’s rollout, declaring that the system was a driving aid and wasn’t safe for hands-off operation. Musk reportedly agreed, then introduced the system with a hands-off mode.

Following the fatal May crash (where a Model S driver collided with a transport truck after the Autopilot failed to recognize it), Musk allegedly blamed Mobileye. The supplier then packed its bags and split.

“Mobileye has made substantial efforts since then to take more control on how this project can be steered to a proper functional safety system,” the company said in a statement. “As for Tesla’s claim that Mobileye was threatened by Tesla’s internal computer vision efforts, the company has little knowledge of these efforts other than an awareness that Tesla had put together a small team.”

If Musk’s past battles have taught us anything, we haven’t heard the last of this very conscious uncoupling.

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