Tesla Gets a Lidar Upgrade – What Would Elon Think?

Photo of A Tesla with a Velodyne Lidar

A Tesla with a Velodyne Lidar

In a strange twist of fate a Tesla was seen at last week’s World Safety Summit retrofitted with a Velodyne lidar sensor. OMG

From an article in Forbes by Lance Eliot.

There is a LIDAR sensor in a Tesla.

There is a LIDAR sensor in a Tesla?

There is a LIDAR sensor in a Tesla!

Those were the range of reactions by attendees at last week’s World Safety Summit On Autonomous Technology at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara. This marquee annual event about self-driving cars is put together by Velodyne, a top maker of LIDAR sensors, and includes as participants anyone with keen interest in the future of autonomous car safety. Speakers included luminaries from major automakers, notable driverless car tech firms, representatives of automotive standards groups and professors and researchers, including from Princeton University.

If you are wondering why the attendees might have differing and puzzled reactions about seeing a Tesla loaded with a LIDAR unit, you need to know the backstory underlying how Elon Musk has essentially taken an anti-LIDAR stance.

The Backstory Revealed

LIDAR sensors are used in nearly all makes and models of self-driving cars, and as a result the market for LIDAR units is booming and predicted to grow exponentially once driverless cars are ready for mass production.

Tesla and Elon Musk have opted to eschew the use of LIDAR.

As readers of my column might recall, I had previously covered the Tesla Investor Autonomy Day event that involved Elon Musk making various announcements about what Tesla is seemingly going to do, along with his unequivocally brash predictions about what will happen to others trying to make autonomous cars.

Here’s what he defiantly proclaimed about other autonomous car makers: “LIDAR is a fool’s errand. Anyone relying on LIDAR is doomed. Doomed!”

This seems rather untoward as a proclamation since nearly all of the autonomous car makers are making use of LIDAR, other than Tesla. Thus, Musk’s comments were pretty much a blanket statement slurring just about everyone else in the autonomous car niche.

That’s some gutsy effrontery, outright smack talk, but perhaps in keeping with Musk’s outsize style.

Readers had earlier asked me to do an analysis of how the anti-LIDAR stance might impact Tesla, which in a subsequent posted piece I pointed out that there are drawbacks to being anti-LIDAR, such as the potential for hefty lawsuits if Tesla cars get into car crashes and a claim might be lodged that the accident could have been avoided if LIDAR had been included into Tesla cars.

In any case, you are now ready to grasp why seeing a Tesla that had a LIDAR unit mounted in it would be a startling revelation.

Velodyne had taken one of their LIDAR units and mounted it into a Tesla.


For the full story click here.

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