Chinese electric car company Xpeng will use LiDAR sensors in its mass-market vehicles that are produced in 2021. The announcement from Xpeng came on Friday and deviated the company away from the current lawsuit that Tesla has against one of its former employees who took Autopilot sourcing code to the Chinese car company.
LiDAR is a strategy that utilizes light detection and ranging to determine self-driving accuracy. The strategy is advantageous in certain environments that offer sufficient lighting, but an automaker has never used it before now. The waves it uses to capture imagery is more ideal for higher precision driving, but it is costly. Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, once called the use of LiDAR “a fool’s errand,” and has consistently cited it as the wrong approach to developing self-driving techniques. “[They are] expensive sensors that are unnecessary,” Musk added when talking about the use of LiDAR to develop self-driving cars.
Musk’s opinions won’t convince Xpeng to shy away from using it, however. CEO He Xiaopeng said the LiDAR tech is “a breakthrough in popularising autonomous driving.” Xpeng said in a statement that using the technology will “significantly improve” the accuracy of its tech by holding the ability to recognize vehicles and other objects, making it safer and more defined on the company’s quest to a fully self-driving car.
The company’s announcement regarding the use of LiDAR counteracts with the current lawsuit Tesla holds against one of its former employees who went to Xpeng. Cao Guangzhi, a former Tesla Autopilot team engineer, was accused of stealing sourcing code from the Silicon Valley-based automaker and giving it to Xpeng for money. The lawsuit hit a standstill when Tesla was denied access to grand jury materials related to a former Apple employee, Zhang Xiaolang, who left the tech company for Xpeng.
But Xpeng’s adoption of LiDAR shows that Tesla’s sourcing code may not have been desirable to the Chinese automaker. Either that or the company couldn’t figure out what Tesla was doing with AP, as it is extremely complex and constantly improving thanks to the Neural Network. Musk stated in a Tweet on Friday morning that Xpeng has an old version of Tesla’s software, which is outdated, less complex, and not as functional as the current versions of AP. Additionally, Xpeng does not have the advantages of a Neural Network, which uses data compiled from every mile driven to improve its self-driving performance.
They have an old version of our software & don’t have our NN inference computer
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 20, 2020
Musk made it clear that Xpeng was the only Chinese company that attempted to utilize Tesla’s AP source code, which was not open-sourced and was taken without the automaker’s consent.
Regardless, Xpeng is happy with using LiDAR as it believes it will offer a “nearly tenfold increase in computing power” and “centimeter-level accuracy.” While Xpeng will be the first car company to use LiDAR, it will not be the first autonomous driving entity to utilize the tech. Waymo uses the tech and is selling its own LiDAR systems as of 2019.
The expensive cost of LiDAR is sure to drive up Xpeng’s vehicles’ price, but the company did not want to indicate how much its 2021 vehicles that will equip the technology will set back consumers.
Originally reported by the South China Morning Post.