Tesla backs Mobileye’s “autonomous” technology despite media skepticism

Published: December 22, 2015 | Palo alto, CA

Tesla Motors would continue to use driving assistant software maker MobilEye NV’s vision chips in its vehicles, a day after a celebrity hacker challenged MobilEye’s technology. A Bloomberg Businessweek article said hacker George Hotz had built a self-driving car in about a month. Hotz challenged Mobileye’s technology, calling it absurd.


George Hotz (26) who happened to be the first person to hack iPhone, invited Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance to his house in San Francisco to check out a project he’s been working on. He says it’s a self-driving car that he had built in about a month. The claim seems absurd. But when Ashlee turned up that morning he saw a white 2016 Acura ILX outfitted with a laser-based radar (lidar) system on the roof and a camera mounted near the rearview mirror.


A tangle of electronics is attached to a wooden board where the glove compartment used to be, a joystick protrudes where you’d usually find a gearshift, and a 21.5-inch screen is attached to the center of the dash. “Tesla only has a 17-inch screen,” Hotz says.

He’s been keeping the project to himself and is dying to show it off. Both pace around the car going over the technology. Hotz fires up the vehicle’s computer, which runs a version of the Linux operating system, and strings of numbers fill the screen. When he turns the wheel or puts the blinker on, a few numbers change, demonstrating that he’s tapped into the Acura’s internal controls.

Hotz explains that his self-driving setup, like the autopilot feature on a Tesla, is meant for highways, not chaotic city streets. He drives through San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood and then onto Interstate 280.

With Hotz still holding the wheel, the Acura’s lidar paints a pixelated image on the dash screen of everything around us, including the freeway walls and other cars. A blue line charts the path the car is taking, and a green line shows the path the self-driving software recommends. The two match up pretty well, which means the technology is working. After a couple miles, Hotz lets go of the wheel and pulls the trigger on the joystick, kicking the car into self-driving mode.

MobilEye shares closed down 7.8 percent on Wednesday.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk on Thursday tweeted a link to the company’s blogpost, which said it was extremely unlikely that a single person or a small company that lacked extensive engineering capabilities would be able to produce an autonomous driving system that can be used in production vehicles.

“Going forward, we will continue to use the most advanced component technologies, such as MobilEye’s vision chip, in our vehicles. Their part is the best in the world at what it does and that is why we use it,” Tesla said in the blog.

Shares of Mobileye were up about 5 percent on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. A Tesla blogpost said the Bloomberg article dated Dec. 16 didn’t correctly represent Tesla and Mobileye.

Source: Bloomberg, The Verge


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