Japanese automaker Nissan Motor Co Ltd stated on Thursday that it would be using cameras and radar in the development of its full self-driving technologies. Seemingly siding with American electric car maker Tesla, Nissan argued that LiDAR, a key component in the autonomous driving systems of competitors such as GM and Ford, is too expensive for its capabilities.
Nissan’s announcement comes roughly a month after Tesla held its Autonomy Day, where Elon Musk dubbed LiDAR a “fool’s errand.” During the event, Musk predicted that companies relying on the light-based sensors would likely abandon the technology in the future. For his part, Tetsuya Iijima, general manager of advanced technology at Nissan, noted in a statement to reporters that LiDAR’s capabilities currently fail to match up to advanced camera and radar solutions.
“At the moment, LiDAR lacks the capabilities to exceed the capabilities of the latest technology in radar and cameras. It would be fantastic if LiDAR technology was at the level that we could use it in our systems, but it’s not. There’s an imbalance between its cost and its capabilities,” Iijima said.
Iijima’s statements about LiDAR are not just empty words from the Japanese carmaker, as Nissan has unveiled its own camera and radar-focused self-driving technology recently. Unlike Tesla’s current Autopilot system, which requires drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel, Nissan’s system allows hands-free driving in single lanes on highways on predefined routes.
To enable this technology, Nissan utilizes cameras, radar, and sonar sensors to compile three-dimensional mapping data, enabling the company’s vehicles to “see” their surroundings accurately. The Japanese carmaker is also developing a “Tri-Cam” system that focuses on three points to the front and sides of a vehicle, allowing cars to capture a wide area of view.
Nissan plans to roll out its self-driving technology even to its lineup of affordable vehicles in the future. By doing so, the carmaker expects to see a boost in sales, enabling it to recover from a profit slump. Nissan’s earnings have been rough as of late, with the company noting during a recent report that it had hit “rock bottom” amidst the aftermath of a financial scandal related to its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn.
Tesla’s full self-driving strategy, which uses cameras and artificial intelligence, was explained by Sr. Director of AI Andrej Karpathy during the electric car maker’s Autonomy Day event last month. Karpathy likened Tesla’s full self-driving approach to the way humans operate a vehicle, even joking that the event’s attendees only used their biological cameras (eyes) and neural networks (brain) to drive to the event’s venue. “You all used your own neural network in your brains to get here. You didn’t shoot lasers from your eyes to drive,” Karpathy lightly said.