Is Tesla Motors Autopilot to be Trusted Without This Tech? (TSLA)

Tesla Model 3 (TSLA)

Tesla Motors Inc decision to equip all cars with self-driving hardware has increased competition among the auto companies and rival camps of technology over what equipment will be on board vehicles of the future, says a report from Reuters. The main point is this – Tesla’s self-driving system depends on radar sensors and cameras and does not use lidar. Lidar – the laser imaging tech – is used by several companies pursuing self-driving vehicles to produce specific pictures of the environment around their cars.

Tesla not using Mobileye tech after dispute

Tesla Motors Inc is not using tech from Mobileye now. Mobileye – an Israeli-based supplier of computer software and vision chips – provided components for previous Tesla models equipped with Autopilot. This summer, following a fatal crash in May, Mobileye and Elon Musk engaged in a public dispute. In the mentioned crash, a Model S driver was killed after hitting a truck while driving on the Autopilot.

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) Autopilot
Source: Tesla Motors Inc

Two dozen other suppliers and automakers are served by Mobileye. Also, to pursue self-driving vehicle systems, the company has partnered with the US supplier Delphi, German automaker BMW and chip making giant Intel, notes Reuters.

In an interview, Dan Galves – senior vice president at Mobileye – said “as we move to a higher level of autonomy in vehicles, you’re going to want to have more redundancy,” adding this can be provided by radar and lidar. “The more sensors, the better.”

Full self-driving still far away

No automaker, including Tesla, is offering a fully self-driving car currently. But most of the big suppliers and manufacturers are working on different tech suites, including lidar, radar, and cameras, to allow cars to drive all by themselves. Google’s self-driving vehicles use a combination of cameras, lidar and radar. The search giant believes the multi-sensor approach compensates for the limitations of all kinds of sensors.

However, Lidar’s high price is one of the hindrances in the production and sale of the self-driving cars as the mainstream consumers would not be able to afford it, notes Reuters.

Ford – an investor in lidar manufacturer Velodyne – is not planning to put a fully self-driving car into production for individual consumers until 2025 and for ride-sharing fleets until 2021. Even Toyota told that it is not expecting to see Level 5 vehicles in widespread use for at least 10-15 years. The Level 5 cars are capable of fully self-driving operation without drivers in all situations.

Lidar – is it vital for self-driving

Marta Hall, head of California-based Velodyne, said, without lidar, Tesla Motors Inc “will not be able to handle all situations with this array of sensors.” Also, Colin Langan – a UBS analyst – raised a concern that though excluding lidar could reduce the total cost of an automated system, it would boost negative scrutiny as well, if it is proved that a lidar sensor could have prevented an accident.

According to Barclays analyst Brian Johnson, “Selling a vehicle with the latest and greatest hardware, but an unproven self-driving software package is a risky strategy.”

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Aman is MBA (Finance) with an experience on both marketing and Finance side. He has work as a Risk Analyst for AIR Worldwide, and is currently leading VeRa FinServ, a Financial Research firm. Favorite pastimes include watching science fiction movies, playing PC games and cricket.


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