Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has flatly denied "Globes" report that his visit to Israel this week is connected to collaboration between his electric car company Tesla and Tel Aviv-based startup Cortica. He tweeted last night, "This is completely false. Never even heard of Cortica. Just taking my kids on a Spring Break trip to see ancient historical sites in Israel & Jordan." Earlier, a Tesla spokesperson had also denied the talks.
However, sources very close to the subject told "Globes" that Cortica is indeed in talks with Tesla. According to these sources, the talks have been taking place for a long time and were initiated by Tesla, which is interested in collaborating with the Israeli startup, investing in it, and possibly even acquiring it. The talks have not yet reached any kind of deal and Cortica has declined to comment on them.
It is by no means unknown for large corporations to deny talks before it is known if a deal will be reached. Only last month Spotify denied that it had plans to enter the Israeli market, only to announce a few days later that the company was launching Israel operations.
It also seems unlikely that Tesla CEO Musk and his senior executives have never even heard of Cortica as it is one of Israel's most promising and prominent startups with a major international presence in the self-driving car sector, in which Tesla is a key player.
Cortica's prototypes are being integrated into car models manufactured by seven major automakers and Volkswagen recently announced that it is adopting the Israeli company's technology.
Cortica is developing unsupervised machine learning systems that can understand a vehicle's environment and identify objects while the vehicle is travelling. The company was founded in 2007, has so far raised $70 million, from investors such as Samsung and Li Ka-shing, and has registered about 200 patents on its technology.
Musk has a previous track record with Israeli self-driving car technology. Two years ago he visited Israel secretly to inspect Mobileye's sensor technology. Several months later the sensors were incorporated in Tesla's carts but the collaboration was halted after a car was involved in a crash.
During Musk's current visit to Israel, he has met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and posted pictures on Instagram of his visit to Masada and several Jerusalem bars.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 21, 2018
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