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Tesla Spending Millions On Lidar Despite Elon Musk’s Hate For The Tech

Luminar has refused to disclose why Tesla is purchasing so many lidar sensors from it


by Brad Anderson

May 8, 2024 at 10:07

 Tesla Spending Millions On Lidar Despite Elon Musk’s Hate For The Tech

  • Tesla has previously acknowledged using lidar to verify its self-driving systems.
  • The carmaker may have purchased as many as 2,100 lidar sensors in Q1.
  • Elon Musk has previously said companies using lidar for self-driving systems are “doomed.”

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has lambasted lidar sensors on multiple occasions but as it turns out, the electric carmaker is the single largest lidar customer of Luminar, a leading lidar technology company.

In a newly released quarterly earnings report, Luminar revealed that Tesla was its “largest LiDAR customer in Q1,” accounting for more than 10% of the firm’s revenue during the first quarter. This equates to approximately $2.1 million worth of sensors purchased by Tesla this year, helping to offset a quarter-over-quarter drop in revenue for Luminar.

Read: A Growing Number Of Carmakers Are Using Lidar Sensors, Tesla Ain’t One Of Them

Luminar has declined to say what Tesla is using its lidar sensors for, Auto News reports. The revelation comes just a few weeks after Tesla’s own quarterly earnings call when Musk said its vision-only system was the best way to achieve full autonomy.

“It is obvious that our solution with a relatively low-cost inference computer and standard cameras can achieve self-driving,” he said. “No lidars, no radars, ultrasonic. Nothing.”

 Tesla Spending Millions On Lidar Despite Elon Musk’s Hate For The Tech

The Verge reports the average Luminar lidar sensor cost approximately $1,000, suggesting Tesla may have purchased as many as 2,100 of them. Despite Musk’s denial about the importance of the laser imaging technology, Tesla was spotted testing lidar on a Model Y prototype in May 2021, so it’s not as opposed to the technology as Musk would like the world to think.

The eccentric billionaire has been outspoken in his disdain for lidar in autonomous vehicles for many years. In 2020 he claimed it was “freaking stupid” in cars, calling it “expensive and unnecessary.” In 2019, he said, “anyone relying on lidar [for autonomous cars] is doomed.”

“[They are] expensive sensors that are unnecessary,” he added. “It’s like having a whole bunch of expensive appendices. Like, one appendix is bad, well now you have a whole bunch of them, it’s ridiculous, you’ll see.”

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