In a recent earnings call with investors Elon Musk renewed his stand against the use of lidar in autonomous vehicles, at least in the case of Tesla automobiles. Musk has long argued that LIDAR is too expensive and too bulky for Tesla’s vehicles. He defended Tesla’s strategy of achieving “full autonomy” using only cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors.
“In my view, it’s a crutch that will drive companies to a local maximum (?) that they will find very hard to get out of,” Musk said. He added, “Perhaps I am wrong, and I will look like a fool. But I am quite certain that I am not.”
Musk says Tesla is working on a much bigger problem: passive optical recognition. This is why Tesla is banking on cameras as the key sensor component. With their ever-increasing pixel resolution and the low-price point, camera sensors are seen as indispensable for advanced driver assistance systems (like Tesla’s Autopilot) and fully autonomous systems. For Tesla, cameras are the key.
Musk said he found it “quite puzzling” that so many companies relied on LIDAR to help their cars “see.” As evidence, Tesla ranked last in a recent scorecard of the 19 companies developing self-driving cars. Analysts noted that even Tesla’s own suppliers like Nvidia have expressed doubt that the computing hardware it sells to Tesla is capable of supporting full automation reliably.
This could all become a moot point if Musk does not begin to deliver on his production promises for Tesla.