- Tesla CEO Elon Musk quietly visited Israel last month amid rumors he was exploring business ventures with Israeli AI company Cortica.
- Cortica’s technology could potentially benefit Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance feature, but Musk swiftly denied any meeting.
- The CEO of Cortica told Business Insider the company would “obviously” be interested in a collaboration with Tesla.
- Tesla is working to develop fully self-driving capabilities which Musk said would be ready by 2019.
When Tesla CEO Elon Musk quietly visited Israel last month rumors soon emerged he was exploring potential business ventures in the region.
Local business news outlet Globes reported Musk was specifically visiting Israel to meet with artificial-intelligence startup Cortica, which specializes in self-learning technology that can be used for autonomous vehicles.
Musk quickly denied the reports, saying a collaboration between the two companies was “completely false,” adding he “had never even heard of Cortica.”
Cortica was similarly confused, but didn’t mind the publicity.
“We were just as surprised as you were. We didn’t start the rumor and we didn’t spread it. It made me laugh. It was like a little gift,” said Scott Eisenstein, president at SEPR Public Relations, which represents Cortica.
But Cortica CEO Igal Raichelgauz recently told Business Insider he would definitely be open to working with Musk.
“We are very interested to work with all the major players, and obviously Elon Musk is a major player in this space. He is very innovative, so obviously we would be interested,” he said.
Despite the denials, Globes stuck by its initial report, issuing a follow-up that all three of their sources insisted talks between the companies were longstanding and claimed they were initiated by Tesla.
According to Globes, Tesla could be looking to global AI firms to fix massive gaps in its cars’ autonomous driving capabilities.
Business Insider has not yet independently confirmed the claims made by Globes. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.
Tesla has used Israeli AI before
Tesla has a history of investing in Israeli-made self-driving car technology to enhance its Autopilot feature.
In 2016, Musk met with officials at Mobileye, an Israeli AI company that designs driver-assistance equipment. Mobileye began developing key elements for Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving program, Autopilot, which was announced as a feature on all future cars.
But Mobileye and Tesla eventually parted ways, and exchanged some terse words about Autopilot in 2016, according to Reuters.
In 2017 Musk said Tesla cars could be fully autonomous within two years, even suggesting that the technology would enable drivers to sleep in their cars during a journey.
Cortica’s automotive AI technology focuses on unsupervised machine learning which, the company says, allows the intelligence system to understand a vehicle’s environment and independently identify objects while on the road.
“The mission of the technology is to enable autonomous machines to learn and interact with the world in similar ways that human beings do,” Raichelgauz told Business Insider.
The company hopes to facilitate the creation of completely autonomous vehicles, in line with Tesla’s Autopilot feature.
According to Globes, the company has so far raised $70 million from investors like Korea-based Samsung and Hong Kong-based business magnate Li Ka-shing. The company also told Business Insider it has established partnerships in India and China.
But Raichelgauz is still holding out to work with Tesla.
“They are one of the most innovative companies in terms of vision on the future of autonomous vehicles. They definitely have a very interesting and promising approach to AI,” he said.
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