Lidar Sensors for Self-Driving Cars: How Is Tesla Testing them?
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears to be reconsidering his stance on lidar sensors for his autonomous vehicles. He once dismissed lidar as unnecessary and too expensive to be practical. Yet according to a report by Automotive News, the auto giant seems to be working with Luminar Technologies for lidar sensor testing and development.
Neither Tesla nor Luminar representatives have confirmed any relationship between the two companies. But, the brand’s Model Y was recently spotted in Florida with a roof rack of the sensors. Self-driving cars are coming closer to being a reality | Twenty20
What is a lidar sensor?
LiDAR, sometimes referred to as laser scanners, stands for “light detection and ranging”. NASA uses lidar to observe the atmosphere in space, which gives scientists a better understanding of climate change and pollution.
In space, lidar releases short pulses of laser light and some of the light reflects off of particles back into a telescope. The amount of light that the telescope receives gives information on the location and attributes of the particles.
How are lidar sensors used in autonomous vehicles?
Fully autonomous or self-driving vehicles are not currently available to everyday drivers. Some Tesla cars offer hands-free cruising on the highway but with limitations. Lidar technology has since progressed by becoming smaller, more versatile, and more accurate.
According to Automotive News, lidar uses lasers to build a 3D image of the road and landscape, and it helps the vehicle “see” the environment. This way it can predict the behavior of pedestrians and vehicles on the road, and plan out how to safely navigate around them.
The role of lidar sensors in the future of self-driving cars has been questioned by Elon Musk. In April 2019, on “Autonomy Day,” Musk said that “anyone relying on lidar is doomed.” But to other large automakers, it is a key technology for making self-driving cars possible.
Sam Abuelsamid, Guidehouse Insights analyst, said that Tesla is probably not switching over to lidar. “The more likely scenario is they are using the Luminar lidars to validate their camera-based [full self-driving] system,” Abuelsamid said. It’s unlikely that Tesla will retrofit lidar on one million vehicles.
Are self-driving cars safe?
The idea of self-driving cars is exciting though many people remain skeptical of their safety. It’s easy to understand why. A deadly crash in Houston, Texas involving Tesla’s Model S stirred up debate on how to make sure drivers are paying attention if Autopilot is on.
The safety of autonomous cars is still being tested. Some argue that self-driving cars have the potential to reduce human error and prevent crashes from occurring. Automated systems in cars could overcome limitations in low visibility conditions and react quickly to unanticipated road hazards.
Automakers are still trying to find the best way to move forward with the technology needed to make autonomous vehicles safe. In the meantime, you might have purchased a new Tesla vehicle or another electric car and noticed your car insurance rates increase.
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