Tesla Model Y spotted testing lidar sensors in Florida

Tesla appears to have teamed up with lidar sensor producer Luminar for testing purposes despite Musk's claims that lidar is unnecessary.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt

Does this mean Elon is going back on his comments on lidar?

Grayson Brulte via Twitter

We've heard CEO Elon Musk go on and on for ages about how lidar is a crutch, how it's not necessary for fully autonomous vehicles to work, and how vision is better, etc. Despite that, according to a report published Monday by Automotive News, Tesla appears to have a contract in place with lidar sensor manufacturer Luminar for testing and development.

According to AN's report, a Tesla Model Y sporting a roof rack festooned with lidar sensors and a vehicle manufacturer's license plate was spotted in Palm Beach, Florida, at around 8 a.m. ET on Thursday, May 20 by an autonomous vehicle development consultant named Grayson Brulte. Brulte took photos of the vehicle and posted them to Twitter.

Now, since nobody has created a commercially viable Level 5 autonomy-capable vehicle yet, it's hard to say definitively what sensors it will actually need. Still, we know that those companies that are likely the closest to Level 5 all use lidar -- Cruise and Waymo, for example. 

Meanwhile, Tesla's system that it misleadingly refers to as "Full Self-Driving," is actually just a Level 2 driver-assistance system and uses a combination of cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors to work, though it still requires the human driver to actively pay attention (even if Tesla is way behind the curve with driver monitoring).

We'd typically ask Tesla for an official comment on a story like this, but since it disbanded its PR department some time ago, we can't.

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