Former Google and Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski's scathing accusations challenging the physics behind Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk's claims about Autopilot should force Musk to make his case that self-drive cars don't need LiDAR in the next few months.
Besides the humor factor associated with the expletive-riddled rants by text Levandowski sent to former Uber CEO and company founder Travis Kalanick, Levandowski challenged Musk's claims during the pre-trial phase of Waymo v. Uber by attacking the engineering and scientific principals that he said Musk defied. More precisely, he dismissed Musk's claims that cameras, radar, and other sensors could suffice alone without the help of LiDAR in Tesla models for Autopilot's self-drive mode.
We've got to start calling Elon on his shit. I'm not on social media but let's start "faketesla" and start give physics lessons about stupid shit Elon says.
While describing a near miss involving a test truck from Otto, the driverless truck startup Levandowski sold to Uber, Levandowski in another text sent a link to Kalanick he said he received from Ford about a report in China alleging that a driver there was killed in a Tesla accident.
Tesla crash in January which implies Elon is lying about millions of miles without incident. We should have LDP on tesla just to catch all the crashes that are going on. Got this from ford who's debating call him out on his shit. sic
Levandowski's allegations run counter to when Musk spoke in 2015 about how Tesla models would not use LiDAR, and that the carmaker was opting for sonar, radar, and passive camera systems instead. And yet, after Musk made his anti-LiDAR announcement, there have been spy shots published of a Tesla Model S prototype being tested with a LiDAR device mounted on it — which Tesla claims is for calibrating its other sensors.
Musk and Tesla may or not react to Levandowski rather-abrasive texts directly. But it will be interesting to see if Tesla can continue to counter Levandowski's criticisms by meeting its roadmap schedule for Autopilot. In a few months, we'll know whether Tesla can live up to Musk's claims that new Tesla models already have the hardware they need to offer "full autonomous" driving and whether Level 4 can be eventually achieved without LiDAR components.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles says it will take part in an alliance with luxury car giant BMW and driverless car component powerhouse Intel and Mobileye to develop Level 4 and Level 5 solutions internally and for other OEMs.
Intel and Mobileye have previously announced a joint partnership to offer key components for emerging self-drive systems. These presently include BMW's iNext model, which will be the German premium carmaker's first Level 3 driverless car when it launches in 2021.
A recently registered patent by Waymo shows how its future driverless fleets may use a technology that lessens the shock of impact when they hit something, such as a pedestrian or an animal that comes into harm's way. According to the details of the patent, the sensors in the vehicle first detect an imminent collision and then reduce the rigidity, or in engineering terms, the tenion of the vehicle's exterior. "The vehicle may identify and respond to a potential collision by altering the tension that is applied to one or more tension members, thereby altering the rigidity of the vehicle's surface," as Waymo describes the technology in its patent.