A press conference held recently to explain the usage of Autopilot feature as part of 7.0 Software Update in Tesla’s autonomous car by the company’s CEO, Elon Musk. In the same occasion, a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter asked whether Model S would need more sensors in order to provide greater level of autonomy.
In his response to the question, he mentioned that in order for a full autonomy car to work, 360 cameras, forward cameras, computer hardware, motors and steering rack is needed. However, he added that LIDAR is not needed as LIDAR can be replaced by passive optical and most probably with one forward RADAR to cater for scenario of fast driving in rain or snow or dust. He also said that LIDAR is most probably suitable to be used for dragon spacecraft when docking with space station which is what the company is currently developing and putting a lot of effort into it. However, according to him LIDAR does not make sense in a car context.
Google, on the other hand, seems to have a different opinion than Tesla. Google prototype self driving car mainly powered by LIDAR array on top of the vehicle. LIDAR works such that it is able to measure distance by pointing lasers at targets surrounding the car and analyzing the light that is reflected.
As full autonomy car technology will debut in mostly three years time, the most important of it is the approval of many regulatory bodies in order for it to be able to be used on the public roads.