Lidar has been in the news a lot lately, perhaps showing it’s the wave of the future. However, a tech pioneer, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, doesn’t put as much stock in lidar. It pushes its autonomous cars to be ready for the road and refuses to add lidar sensors, while many other autonomous vehicle manufacturers believe it makes them safer.
Skepticism of industry leaders
Elon Musk is moving forward with what he calls “fully autonomous driving”. A group of drivers have been selected to receive a software update that allows Tesla vehicles to steer better and accelerate without human intervention. The company says thousands of cars will be able to drive themselves as early as this year, which could make the company the first to have a fleet of self-driving vehicles at the consumer level.
Others in the self-driving industry don’t believe Tesla cars are this safe. A coalition that includes Cruise, Ford, Uber, and General Motors’ Waymo criticized Tesla, saying its vehicles aren’t truly self-driving because they still require a driver.
Additionally, they don’t believe Tesla cars are safe enough to be self-sufficient because they don’t include lidar sensors. These are placed on the outside of cars to detect the size, shape and depth of objects in its path.
But Tesla wants to achieve it with its own cameras and radar that connects to an advanced neural network. The technology can detect vehicles, pedestrians and trees, but it cannot see the true shape or depth of the object.
Lidar has also been in the news in recent weeks as it is included in the new iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. It makes you wonder why Apple can easily include it on a smartphone, but Tesla cannot put it on a car in the interests of safety.
Musk said lidar was “expensive”, redundant and “a fool’s rush”. He said whoever relied on her was “doomed”. In addition, he said he would not include lidar in the Tesla fleet, even though it was “completely free”.
Other manufacturers fully test their autonomous driving features before making them road-ready, but Musk prefers to let his customers test those features which are often safety related.
The companies that develop robot cars for ridesharing – Waymo, Zoox, Uber, and Cruise – all use lidar in vehicles. These companies believe that quick observations are essential in all conditions, and that this fills in the gaps where cameras can often be insufficient.
Tesla cameras replicate lidar
Musk said that new software is released slowly Users starting this week will better capture the view outside of cars and more seamlessly integrate images collected by Tesla cameras, stitching them together, leading to a multidimensional view.
The cameras will collect data that the engineers will interpret. They will replicate an essential function of lidar, as they will show what is happening around cars.
“They’re trying to combine all the feeds from the cameras into one full video and tag it in real time,” said Eshak Mir, a former Tesla Autopilot engineer. “With this you will be able to capture a full sense of depth.”
But consider the situation observed by Zlatko Unger, who owns a Tesla Model 3. He went to a horse park and his Tesla, with its camera system, displayed a danger on its screen. The system thought it was examining traffic cones. Instead, he was looking at piles of horse dung.
Would you feel safe in a car that confuses traffic cones and piles of excrement? Read on to learn more about Tesla’s latest software update that allows cameras to interpret speed limit signs. If it’s still at the point of working on these types of features, maybe it’s not that road-ready yet.
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