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Tesla purchased over $2 million value of lidar sensors from Luminar this 12 months

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Elon Musk doesn’t like lidar, the laser sensor that powers many corporations’ self-driving ambitions. He beforehand called it a “crutch” and stated any firm that depends on lidar for its autonomous capabilities was “doomed.”

Nicely, apparently Tesla is stocking up on crutches.

In its quarterly earnings report released today, Orlando-based lidar producer Luminar disclosed that Tesla was its “largest LiDAR buyer in Q1,” comprising greater than 10 % of the corporate’s income for the quarter. That interprets to round $2.1 million value of lidar, based mostly on Luminar’s $21 million in income for the quarter.

Tesla is stocking up on crutches

It’s a exceptional reversal for Tesla, which has famously winnowed down through the years the variety of sensors it makes use of to energy its superior driver-assist options like Autopilot and Full Self-Driving — options that Musk has consistently offered as a precursor to a totally autonomous automobile fleet. Later this 12 months, Tesla is anticipated to disclose a robotaxi prototype on which Musk is betting the way forward for his firm.

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Musk’s lidar allergy was even on show throughout Tesla’s personal quarterly earnings name, through which he boasted about how his automobiles solely depend on camera-based imaginative and prescient methods to energy their driver-assist options.

“It’s apparent that our resolution with a comparatively low-cost inference pc and customary cameras can obtain self-driving,” Musk stated. “No lidars, no radars, ultrasonic. Nothing.”

It’s a exceptional reversal for Tesla

What Tesla is doing with $2.1 million value of Luminar lidar is anybody’s guess. Luminar spokesperson Milin Mehta declined to remark, and Tesla hasn’t responded formally to any reporters’ queries since 2019.

Once I requested Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell in 2021 particularly concerning the Tesla deal, he declined to remark, citing “buyer confidentiality.” He did notice that Luminar sells its older Hydra lidar models to some prospects doing “testing, growth… information assortment, [and] benchmarking.”

Even when Tesla is utilizing Luminar’s lidar to validate its Full Self-Driving function in preparation for a robotaxi launch, that’s nonetheless lots of lidar. Based on Luminar, particular person lidar sensors price round $1,000, together with software program. Did Tesla purchase 2,100 lidars for its automobiles? Possibly! The corporate is quietly working an autonomous testing fleet in various cities, together with San Francisco and Las Vegas. Is it going to retrofit these company-owned automobiles with Luminar’s lidar? If it does, folks will discover — similar to they seen the one Mannequin Y in Florida a number of years in the past. We’ll know quickly sufficient whether or not these automobiles are set to hit the street.

What does appear clear is that Tesla is altering its tune on lidar, even when publicly Musk remains to be anti-lidar. Finally, the CEO himself could also be pressured to swallow his delight and admit that lasers are indeed the sauce.

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