During an earnings call with analysts and investors this week, MobilEye chief technical officer Amnon Shashua announced that his company is severing its business relationship with Tesla Motors. The MobilEye EyeQ3 is a critical component in Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous software suite that allows cars to accelerate, brake and steer on their own within certain parameters.
Shashua did say MobilEye would continue to work with Tesla to improve how EyeQ3 performs in the Model S and Model X. “EyeQ3 shipments will continue for the near future, and maybe for the longer future,” Shashua said. The problems the two companies are having seems to be related to the fatal accident that killed Joshua Brown on a Florida highway on May 7.
The National Transportation Safety Board issued a statement yesterday saying its preliminary findings indicate that Autopilot was enabled at the time of the accident and that Brown’s car was travelling 74 miles per hour when it ran into a cargo trailer that was crossing the highway. Some people are incredulous that the system did not identify a 48′ long trailer directly in its path.
As part of his remarks, Shashua said his company believes achieving true autonomy means going “beyond typical supplier relationships.” He refused to respond directly to questions put to him about whether the accident in Florida was the cause of the rupture between the two companies. “We simply decided where we wanted to put our resources for the future of autonomous driving… and we decided what we decided.” He also said that Tesla’s business is “not material” to MobilEye’s bottom line, nor is it a significant percentage of the company’s overall revenue.
Interestingly enough, at a press conference at the new Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada yesterday, Elon Musk also refused to be drawn into a discussion about MobilEye. As reported by Fortune, he stated, “Certainly we’re going to do full autonomy of our cars. They’ll go their path and we’ll go ours. Us parting ways was somewhat inevitable. So there was nothing surprising from our standpoint.”
Tesla’s business may not be “material” now, but when and if the company is successful at selling “millions of cars,” as Musk insists it will do soon, MobilEye may have cause to regret the rupture in its business relationship with Tesla.
There are rumors that Tesla may make its own self driving hardware components and develop its own autonomous software in-house, something it prefers to do rather than relying on outside suppliers who may or may not be able to meet Tesla’s ambitious production targets.