Above: Omer David Keilaf, CEO and Co-Founder of Innoviz (left) and Elon Musk
Two of the world’s experts in safety LiDAR technologies, established a new industrial group aiming to promote the deployment of lidar-based intelligent infrastructure and automotive safety technology. Ted Tewksbury, CEO of California-based Velodyne Lidar, and Omer David Keilaf, CEO and Co-Founder of Israel-based Innoviz Technologies, along with AEye, Cepton, Continental, Ouster and Quanergy Systems inaugurated last month The Lidar Coalition activity in a coordinated effort to convince decision and policy makers to adopt broad lidar deployment.
Tewksbury and Keilaf published a letter on Auto Jobs Now to explain the motived of the new advocacy group: “In recent years we have seen a tragic rise in pedestrian fatalities on our nation’s roadways. Public awareness campaigns and enforcement can only go so far in stemming the tide — we must embrace innovative technologies to prevent crashes and reverse this trend. This is why we are forming the Lidar Coalition, a global group of companies that, through U.S. policy advocacy, is dedicated to deployment of lifesaving technology that has the most potential to prevent harm to vulnerable road users.
3D map of the surrounding environment
“According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian deaths in the U.S. jumped by 46 percent to 6,516 in 2020 from 4,457 in 2011. Even more alarming, the most recent statistics from NHTSA project that 42,915 people died on U.S. roadways in 2021, the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and the highest annual percentage increase in the history of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Pedestrian fatalities increased by 13 percent over 2020, which outpaced the 10.5% increase in overall fatalities.”
Light Detection and Ranging, or “lidar,” is a remote sensing method that uses pulsed light to create a 3D map of the surrounding environment. Lidar is an important component in emerging transportation technologies including smart infrastructure, traffic management, autonomous vehicles (“AV”), advanced driver assist systems (“ADAS”), and many other applications. According to the letter, “Light Detection and Ranging, or lidar, can “see” at the speed of light and in all lighting conditions, including at dusk and at night.
“LiDAR ‘a fool’s errand'”
The biggest opponent of the The Lidar Coalition is Tesla’s owner, Elon Musk, known also as a vocal opposer of LiDAR. “It’s a crutch that will drive companies to a local maximum that they will find very hard to get out of,” He said during February 2018 earnings call. “Perhaps I am wrong, and I will look like a fool. But I am quite certain that I am not.” In April 2019 he gave a presentation on Tesla’s autonomous driving project, calling LiDAR “a fool’s errand”.
He said: “LIDAR can be incredibly expensive, and it’s a costly bet for most companies. They can make the job of selling self-driving cars to customers practically impossible thanks to the added costs. But companies that use LIDAR are already working on reducing those costs. “They are expensive sensors that are unnecessary.”
But on May 20, 2021, a Tesla Model Y was spotted driving the roads equipped with a LiDAR sensor system on its roof. In October 2021 a similar rig was observed at Illinois. Did he change his mind? There has been no official explanation from Tesla regarding this interesting issue, although unofficial commentators have guessed that Tesla is using LiDAR in order to train its vision cameras, and not to control its own Autonomous Driving Suite.