Velodyne Talks about LiDAR Advantages, Tesla Denies the Need

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Velodyne publishes a video on LiDAR advantages in automotive applications:

SeekingAlpha publishes Tesla Q4 2017 earnings call transcript with CEO Elon Musk saying:

Q: "Elon, on your autonomous vehicle strategy, why do you believe that your current hardware set of only camera plus radar is going to be able to get you to fully-validated autonomous vehicle system? Most of your competitors noted that they need redundancy from lidar hardware to given the robustness of the 3D point cloud and the data that's generated. What are they missing in their software stack and their algorithms that Tesla is able to obtain from just the camera and plus radar?

Further, what would be your response if the regulatory bodies required that level of redundancy is really needed from an incremental lidar hardware?

Elon Musk: "Well, first of all, I should say there's actually three sensor systems. There are cameras, redundant forward cameras, there's the forward radar, and there are the ultrasonics for near field. So, the third is also – the third set is also important for near-field stuff, just as it is for human.

But I think it's pretty obvious that the road system is geared towards passive optical. We have to solve passive optical image recognition, extremely well in order to be able to drive in any given environment and the changing environment. We must solve passive optical image recognition. We must solve it extremely well.

At the point at which you have solved it extremely well, what is the point in having active optical, meaning lidar, which does not – which cannot read signs; it's just giving you – in my view, it is a crutch that will drive companies to a local maximum that they will find very difficult to get out of.

If you take the hard path of a sophisticated neural net that's capable of advanced image recognition, then I think you achieve the goal maximum. And you combine that with increasingly sophisticated radar and if you're going to pick active photon generator, doing so in 400 nanometer to 700 nanometer wavelength is pretty silly, since you're getting that passively.

You would want to do active photon generation in the radar frequencies of approximately around 4 millimeters because that is occlusion penetrating. And you can essentially see through snow, rain, dust, fog, anything. So, it's just I find it quite puzzling that companies would choose to do an active photon system in the wrong wavelength. They're going to have a whole bunch of expensive equipment, most of which makes the car expensive, ugly and unnecessary. And I think they will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Now perhaps I am wrong. In which case, I'll look like a fool. But I am quite certain that I am not.

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