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Mobileye CEO: Tesla took 'more risk' for cheap Autopilot

by Justin King

When Tesla split with Mobileye, the Israeli supplier did not have a more advanced and expensive production system with lidar integration.

Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua has taken another swipe at Tesla, effectively claiming the automaker is taking extraordinary risks with Autopilot in an effort to save money.

Speaking to CNET, the executive of the Intel-owned company theorizes that some companies like Tesla and Waymo are willing to skip Tier 1 suppliers to find a quicker way to market. He says the approach also carries a higher level of risk that most traditional automakers are unwilling to accept.

Nearly all companies working on fully autonomous cars believe lidar is necessary to provide redundancy alongside data from cameras, radar and other sensor systems. Tesla is a notable exception, previously arguing that advanced radar data processing eliminates the need for lidar.

"So what is Tesla stating? They are willing to take more risks in sensing mistakes because they have less redundancy, because they want to have a lower-cost technology," Shashua says. "Another car manufacturer can come in and say, 'I want to have almost zero risk in having a sensing mistake and I'm wiling to pay more for that, or my customers are willing to pay more for that, so therefore I'm putting not only radars and cameras, but also lidars.'"

To be fair, Mobileye did not appear to have any lidar-based autonomous systems ready for market when Tesla decided to split from the supplier and rebuild Autopilot's capabilities in-house. At the time, reports claimed Mobileye would not give up complete control over how its driver-assistance products were used by automakers.

"You see that they had, I think still have, difficulties with reaching Autopilot 1.0," Shashua adds. "After three years of development, let's assume that they have reached parity now, it makes sense. This amount of time. This is where they have 10 times the computing power and eight cameras instead of one camera."

Responding to a few attention-grabbing fatal accidents, Tesla has argued that its Autopilot-enabled vehicles are already demonstrably safer than average cars on the road today. In each tragic accident, the company repeats its warning that Autopilot is not yet fully self-driving and drivers must keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times.