Elon Musk has been a vocal critic of lidar sensors, claiming that they are not needed to achieve full autonomy. However, according to a new report, Tesla recently entered into a partnership with Luminar and is using lidar for testing and development.
A dark grey Tesla Model Y prototype was recently spotted testing with a roof rack equipped with various Lidar sensors last week. It is claimed that Luminar sold the Lidar array to Tesla as part of an agreement between the two car manufacturers. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that the license plate of the Model Y is registered to Tesla and has been spotted on previous Tesla models, including a Cybertruck prototype, confirming this car is owned by Tesla itself.
So just what is Tesla up to? While it would be easy to conclude that the company has come to the realization that it does actually need lidar to achieve full autonomy, that’s probably not the case. After all, doing so would force it to admit that it was wrong in its belief that a camera-based system is all that is needed. It would also force it to explain to hundreds of thousands of customers how their expensive ‘Full Self-Driving’ options will never actually achieve full autonomy.
— Grayson Brulte (@gbrulte) May 20, 2021
Instead, Guidehouse analyst Sam Abuelsamid suggests to Bloomberg that Tesla is probably using Luminar’s lidar to validate its own self-driving features. Nevertheless, this is still an interesting development considering what Musk has previously said about lidar systems.
“Anyone relying on LIDAR is doomed,” he said during a presentation in 2019. “Doomed. Expensive sensors that are unnecessary. It’s like having a whole bunch of expensive appendices…you’ll see.”
However, Musk did recently admit to “talking smack” about lidar and said that SpaceX uses them for its Dragon capsule. He also recently revealed that Tesla will move away from using radars and added the electric car manufacturer believes it can achieve full autonomy with only cameras.