Mobileye says it warned Tesla against enabling ‘hands-free’ driving

Tesla said it would update Autopilot to make it difficult for drivers to ignore warnings to keep hands on the wheel

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Mobileye said in a securities filing on Friday that its top executives were assured by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk that drivers of the company’s electric cars would not be allowed to take their hands off the wheel when using the “Autopilot” driving assistance system, but Tesla later allowed hands-free driving over Mobileye’s objections.

“It has long been Mobileye’s position that Tesla’s Autopilot should not be allowed to operate hands-free without proper and substantial technological restrictions and limitations,” Mobileye said in its filing, which it said was made in response to inquiries.

Mobileye, an Israeli company that is a leader in vision systems for vehicles, further alleged in its filing that Musk promised in a subsequent face-to-face meeting with Mobileye chairman and chief technology officer Amnon Shashua that its Autopilot system would require drivers to keep their hands on the wheel.

However, Tesla later backed off this pledge, Mobileye said in its filing with the US Securities Commission, launching hands-free activation features late last year.

A Tesla spokeswoman said on Thursday that Mobileye collaborated with Tesla to develop Autopilot over the past three years. The Silicon Valley electric luxury car maker did not have an immediate reply after Mobileye’s statement was filed on Friday.

Mobileye declined to supply specific evidence beyond what it disclosed in its regulatory filing. It said it had commented fully on the breakdown in its ties with Tesla and would provide no further comment.

On Sunday, Tesla said it would update Autopilot to make it more difficult for drivers to ignore warnings to keep hands on the wheel. Those changes and others, Musk said, would probably have prevented the death in May of a Model S driver using Autopilot, which thrust the technology into the public spotlight.

The statements in the filing by Mobileye intensified a dispute with Tesla over what led to an acrimonious and unusually public rupture between Mobileye and Tesla. Mobileye’s chairman said the company broke ties with Tesla because it was “pushing the envelope in terms of safety” with Autopilot.

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