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Autonomous driving tycoon: Tesla has ‘no credible path’ to true Full Self-Driving

The head of lidar firm Luminar, Austin Russell, reckons Tesla’s self-driving claims ‘don’t make any sense’

Published: 15 Nov 2022

The founder of autonomous driving firm Luminar - which supplies the lidar sensor on the new Volvo EX90 - reckons the Full Self-Driving tech championed by Tesla and CEO Elon Musk isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Tesla’s Autopilot system works using a suite of cameras positioned around its vehicles to monitor surroundings, and Musk said earlier this year that he would be “shocked” if the tech wasn’t “safer than a human” by the end of 2022.

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However industry experts are sceptical, to say the least, and according to Luminar boss Austin Russell, Tesla is one of a number of firms to “ridiculously over-promise” on autonomous driving technology.

“Listen, [Musk has] built a great car company, a great EV company,” he explained. “The problem is that he tries to cash in that credibility on things that don’t make any sense - at all - when it comes to an assisted, autonomous driving perspective.

“The fundamental system he’s built is fine, it operates as an assisted driving system. They built it to replace MobilEye, which was the previous company they’d been working with. Which they did, successfully.

“The only problem that I’ve had is that they call it ‘Full Self-Driving’, which it is unquestionably, absolutely not, and has no clear or even remotely credible path to be able to get there.”

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Strong stuff indeed. Remember Russell’s argument - which he reiterated to TG in Stockholm last week - is that lidar is a necessary element for a truly autonomous car, and that cameras alone cannot reliably detect obstacles and dangers on the road.

“It’s not even just about autonomy in the traditional sense, it’s about safety,” Russell added. “It all comes back to that. And that’s where real consumer value is, it’s not just about the sexy new feature you brand arbitrarily, it’s about saving lives.”

What do we think, folks?

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