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Aurora Backs LiDAR After Musk Bashes It


Aurora Backs LiDAR After Musk Bashes It


CEO Chris Urmson of Aurora, a pioneer in autonomous driving, said that his company bought Blackmore LiDAR, which develops and manufactures the LiDAR that uses sensors to help navigate through traffic. Light detection and ranging technology uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure the distance of objects from cars, drones and other gadgets.

Announcing the acquisition of Blackmore Urmson made a statement saying, “LiDAR is critical for developing the safest and most reliable self-driving system, one that can navigate our roads more safely than a human driver.”

Urmson’s belief in LiDAR is important given his track record and reputation developing autonomous vehicles. For years, Urmson ran the Google self-driving car project that was later named Waymo, the autonomous vehicle company which is widely regarded as the leader in driverless cars. Urmson left Google in 2016 shortly before the tech giant rebranded its self-driving car program.

This is quite a contrast to Tesla CEO Elon Musk debunking LiDAR calling the technology “freaking stupid” just a few weeks ago. In April, Musk was outlining his company’s plan to have up to a 1 million robotaxi Teslas that will be completely autonomous.

Tesla’s Navigate Autopilot technology is based on an Autopilot system relies primarily on cameras that see the road and feed data to the car’s computers, which in turn help navigate the car through traffic. Tesla’s Autopilot does not use LiDAR, which is a suite of sensors capable of seeing around cars and trucks to help autonomous vehicles steer through traffic.

Discarding LiDAR technology outright Musk said, “In cars it is freaking stupid. It is expensive and unnecessary,” adding, “Once you solve vision, it is worthless.”

Jake fisher consumer report senior director of auto testing with almost 20 years of experience in the field says that there are several issues with Tesla autonomous cars. While they perform very well actually in the testing he says the problem is reliability- conducting surveys they have thousands of users owners of Tesla cars telling the experts which makes it difficult for auto experts to recommend this Tesla cars.

Talking about issues regarding the latest Navigate autopilot technology of Tesla cars he says depending on the settings if the users choose to not see warnings before actual changes the Navigation autopilot system will just go ahead and change lanes without the user having confirmed the warning. He added how these automatic Tesla cars sometimes didn’t sense a car coming up behind in other instances just cut other cars while lane changing.  Sometimes when trying to pull over the Tesla car starts driving really very slow on highway making it a more nerve-wracking driving for the consumer and certainly not safer one.

Aurora, Waymo, General Motor’s Cruise and other automakers and tech firms find Musk’s vision of LiDAR to be short-sighted and wrong. In the case of Aurora, Urmson says Blackmore’s LiDAR “can see further with less power, measure velocity instantaneously, and are less susceptible to the challenges associated with heavy weather.”

Looks like it is for consumers to wait and watch which autonomous technology serves the consumer better.

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Cite this article as: Phillip Smith, "Aurora Backs LiDAR After Musk Bashes It," in, May 28, 2019,

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