Tesla Holds Autonomy Day – Musk Knocks Lidar

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, or as some of his more doubting critics have nicknamed him, “PT Musk,” took  the opportunity yesterday to refer to lidar as a fool’s errand. I guess he’s just smarter than everyone else.

Image of car with Tesla Autopilot

Tesla Autopilot

From an article in Mashable.

As Elon Musk made clear Monday, the technology most of his competitors in the self-driving car space use to help vehicles detect what’s around them is lame.

And his option is way better.

“LiDAR is a fool’s errand,” he quipped about the laser-emitting tool that, in the simplest terms, acts as eyes for autonomous cars. “Anyone who is relying on LiDAR is doomed.”

That’s pretty much most of the businesses testing self-driving cars, including Waymo and Uber who went to court over LiDAR technology last year.

Musk let his strong opinions about LiDAR fly at Tesla’s Autonomy Day, an event that gave investors at the company’s Palo Alto headquarters and 50,000-plus livestream viewers an inside look at self-driving tech.

It’s not just LiDAR that Musk’s scrapped for Tesla’s self-driving mode. In a conversation about deploying Tesla robotaxis, he added that HD maps — or highly detailed maps that provide another layer of data for the machine-driven vehicles — were just as useless as LiDAR. Again, most self-driving car trials use HD maps.

Instead, he finds cameras and their vision abilities best to see and interpret the world around cars — much like human drivers. A major portion of the event was devoted to computer vision and how the driving world from streetlights to road signs is based on sight.

“You were not shooting lasers out of your eyes to get here,” Tesla’s head of AI Andrej Karpathy added, before calling LiDAR a “shortcut.” Mimicking human driving as closely as possible is a major goal at Tesla. A radar sensor at the front of a Tesla does the work that the cameras can’t do, such as seeing through fog, dust, or snow.

Musk went on to explain that he’s not wholly anti-LiDAR, just when it comes to cars. His SpaceX team, for example, developed its own LiDAR equipment. But for cars, he finds Tesla’s eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and front-facing radar a price-friendly sensor suite suitable for autonomous driving. He called other LiDAR devices on cars, “expensive sensors that are unnecessary.”

For the full article click here.

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