Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stated in the past that he is not a fan of LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology for autonomous vehicles.
Might he have changed his mind?
On June 30, a Tesla owner spotted a Model S with a LIDAR sensor on the roof in Palo Alto, California near the company’s headquarters.
A photo taken by the owner shows the car had a large Stanford logo on the rear glass and a Stanford license plate frame.
That might indicate it was a Stanford University test vehicle, it does have a Center for Automotive Research that has been involved with self-driving vehicles.
However, the person posted on a blog that suspicions about it being a Tesla corporate-owned car were confirmed when it entered the back parking lot of Tesla headquarters.
That isn’t conclusive proof that Tesla itself is testing the use of LIDAR, it could very well be Stanford or perhaps a supplier company.
LIDAR technology is believed by many experts to be an absolute requirement for a truly self-driving vehicle.
It has been suggested that LIDAR could have detected the white semi-tractor trailer in the bright sunlight and avoided the fatal crash of a Model S in Florida several days ago.
The LIDAR laser detection system is capable of generating complex 3D maps of its surroundings in real time, and allows a vehicle to accurately detect distance to objects.
But Musk has made it clear that the technology is not a part of Tesla plans for its Autopilot semi-autonomous system.
“I don’t think you need LIDAR … you can do this all with passive optical and then with maybe one forward radar,” Musk said during a press conference last October.
“I think that completely solves it without the use of LIDAR. I’m not a big fan of LIDAR, I don’t think it makes sense in this context,” he said.
Tesla is working on Autopilot 2.0, an update of the current system.
If, and that’s a big if, the photographed Model S is being tested by Tesla, perhaps LIDAR will be included.
We’ll just have to wait and see.