In September 2016, Tesla and Mobileye dissolved their partnership and supply contracts and left Tesla to develop their own driving-assist Autopilot technology as a complete system. Tesla said at the time that Mobileye, “attempted to force Tesla to discontinue this development, pay them more and use their products in future hardware,” while Mobileye disputed the claim. Instead, Mobileye made a claim that Tesla was, “pushing the envelope in terms of safety,” and wanted Tesla to lower the abilities of Autopilot until it was proven to be safer.
On today’s earnings call Musk claims that engineers at Tesla were able to recreate the technology powering the Mobileye chip and its respective responsibilities for the car in just six months time. The rebuilding from the ground up also explains the incremental roll out of Autopilot 2.0 software on Model S and Model X vehicles equipped with self-driving hardware. Musk’s Autopilot team developed the new technology in a fraction of the time that Mobileye had spent millions on, and years to create. Mobileye was acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion in mid-march and debuted on the public markets in August 2014.
“November or December of this year, we should be able to go from a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York, no controls touched at any point during the entire journey,” Musk says.
Tesla’s autopilot system is heavily reliant on camera technology, similar to Mobileye’s approach, while competitors are working heavily on integrating LiDAR technology into their vehicles. Speaking at TED2017 last Friday, Musk said “Once you solve cameras for vision, autonomy is solved; if you don’t solve vision, it’s not solved … You can absolutely be superhuman with just cameras.”
Musk also reaffirmed at TED2017 that a self-driving Tesla will be able to drive across the country in late 2017.
Tesla debuted Autopilot in late 2015 alongside their dual motor all-wheel-drive configuration and improved safety features. Autopilot 2.0 debuted in October 2016 and will be capable of full-self-driving through software updates. The Autopilot 2.0 system uses eight cameras around the vehicle, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and forward-facing radar. Musk claimed that the while the current version of Autopilot should be capable of full-self-driving, they designed the computer system to be “easily replaceable and accessible.”