tesla model y with lidar sensors

Tesla no longer needs LIDAR for ground truth data for FSD training: Elon Musk

Credit: You You Xue/Twitter

Luminar Technologies noted in its letter to shareholders that electric vehicle maker Tesla was the largest customer of its LIDAR products in Q1 2024. During the first quarter, Tesla comprised over 10% of Luminar’s revenue. But as per Elon Musk in a recent comment on X, it would appear that Luminar may be seeing less business from Tesla in the future. 

Luminar’s disclosure of its business with Tesla was interpreted by critics of the electric vehicle maker as a sign that Elon Musk was walking back somewhat on his previous comments about LIDAR being a crutch and a dead-end for self-driving. Longtime Tesla watchers, however, have noted that the EV maker typically uses LIDAR units to validate vision data on test vehicles. Thus, Tesla’s purchase of LIDAR units from Luminar does not seem to be out of the ordinary. 

Elon Musk, for his part, responded to the news of Tesla being Luminar’s biggest customer in Q1 2024 by stating that the electric vehicle maker won’t really need LIDAR units anymore to collect ground truth data. “We don’t need them even for that anymore,” Musk wrote

Tesla’s use of LIDAR units on its ground truthing vehicles has attracted quite a lot of attention from the company’s critics over the years. This was partly due to Elon Musk’s previous comments about LIDAR, where he stated that it was a fool’s errand for self-driving vehicles. What Tesla critics typically fail to consider, however, was that Musk was referring to the use of LIDAR in individual vehicles, not in validating vision data. 

This was hinted at much during Luminar’s earnings call on Tuesday, when CEO Tom Fennimore stated that while this is not the first time Tesla ordered LIDAR units from Luminar, the EV maker has not necessarily been a recurring customer. “This isn’t the first time that they’ve ordered LIDARs from us, but I would say it’s been more lumpy than recurring. What exactly they’re doing with them, we can only speculate,” Fennimore said. 

Tesla has been putting a lot of focus on Full Self-Driving (FSD), with Elon Musk announcing that the company’s dedicated Robotaxi “Cybercab” would be unveiled on August 8, 2024. In a comment on X, Musk noted that while Tesla is not necessarily betting the company on FSD, “going balls to the wall for autonomy is a blindingly obvious move.” He also noted that “everything else is like variations on a horse carriage.”

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Tesla no longer needs LIDAR for ground truth data for FSD training: Elon Musk
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