Tesla 'corrects' claim that anyone can make a self driving car

Company posted rebuttal to a story claiming its technology is easily bettered.

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Daniel Cooper
December 17, 2015 9:41 AM
In this article: gear, Mobileye, Tesla, transportation, video
Tesla 'corrects' claim that anyone can make a self driving car

Tesla has never been shy about starting fights with publications that claim its technology isn't all that. This time the firm has windmilled into Bloomberg Business and George "geohot" Hotz, the engineer famous for being the first to hack the iPhone and PlayStation 3. Yesterday, Bloomberg published an interview that showed off Hotz's latest project, a self-driving car kit that can be retrofitted into existing vehicles. During the course of the piece, the inventor threw shade on Tesla's own autopilot hardware, which managed to raise the ire of company CEO Elon Musk.

Hotz reserved specific criticism for Mobileye, the firm that supplies Tesla and other car makers with gear necessary for self-driving cars. As far as the 26-year-old was concerned, that technology was outdated compared to what he himself could knock up in his garage with off-the-shelf components. He's been able to demonstrate some limited success, and the included clip shows his Honda Acura driving itself along a highway in San Francisco. In the near future, Hotz is planning to show his alternative outperform a Tesla along Interstate 405, but there's no word on when that'll be.

In response, Tesla posted a rebuttal to the piece on its blog, saying that Bloomberg's descriptions of Mobileye and its own Autopilot were wrong. In the necessary legalese, the post says that Bloomberg "did not correctly represent Tesla or Mobileye." The company goes on to say that the implication that it simply packages Mobileye's technology and bolts it onto a Model S is false. Instead, its self-driving technology is the result of years of research and numerous components that are blended together into a "groundbreaking experience."

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In addition, Tesla says that it has doubt that a "single person or even a small company" would be able to produce a production-ready autonomous setup. The shade-returning continues with the suggestion that Hotz's system would work well on a "known stretch of road -- Tesla had such a system two years ago," but that wouldn't cope with the rigors of all driving. The company signs off by hinting that Hotz's offering wouldn't be safe enough to put into a vehicle, since getting something right 99 percent of the time isn't great if the error takes place at 70 mph.

Of course, there's a wider story here that goes beyond just a pair of Silicon Valley names going toe-to-toe with each other. That's because Elon Musk has had previous with both George Hotz and Ashlee Vance, the author of the Bloomberg story. Hotz was previously in talks to join Tesla to help design its self-driving car tech, but those broke down after Musk "jerk(ed)" Hotz "around for three months." As The Verge points out, Vance also recently wrote a biography of the SpaceX CEO that painted him in a somewhat unpleasant light. Is there a Silicon Valley equivalent of couples therapy?

[Image Credit: Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg via Getty]

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Tesla 'corrects' claim that anyone can make a self driving car