Elon, a 25-year-old billionaire, and the great self-driving car debate

Tesla (cameras + AI) and Luminar Technologies (LIDAR) have 2 competing visions on how fully autonomous vehicles will be achieved.

One of the classic beefs in business history is The War of the Currents.

Elon, a 25-year-old billionaire, and the great self-driving car debate

The battle, which took place in the late 1800s, saw famed inventors square off over the best way to deliver electricity, including:

  • Thomas Edison, who pushed the direct current (DC) method
  • Nikola Tesla, who pushed the alternating current (AC) method

Today, Elon Musk — who named his EV car company after one of the aforementioned inventors (we won’t say who) — is in a beef with similar stakes: the future of self-driving cars.

Outside of Musk, most of the car industry is using LIDAR

The acronym stands for “LIght Detection And Ranging.” Per The Verge, LIDAR “uses laser pulses to build a 3D model of the environment around the car.”

For self-driving cars, this technology helps a vehicle “see” other vehicles, pedestrians, stop signs, and bikes.

Last week, one of the leading startups in the LIDAR space, Luminar Technologies, went public.

Austin Russell — the company’s 25-year-old CEO, who founded Luminar at age 17 — is now the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

Musk says LIDAR is ‘doomed’

That’s because equipping a car with sensors is quite expensive.

Luminar Technologies is aggressively working to bring LIDAR prices down.

In comparison, Tesla cars are primarily built on cameras and ever-improving AI algorithms.

Musk believes that combining these technologies — along with GPS, maps, and ultrasonic sensors — will allow Teslas to sufficiently “see” and achieve level 5 autonomy (no human input needed).

Luminar will supply Volvos by 2022

According to Ars Technica, it also has a big partnership with Mobileye, Intel’s vision-based autonomous vehicle subsidiary that works with a number of car manufacturers.

One big advantage that Tesla has over its LIDAR competitors is data. As of January 2020, more than 700k+ Tesla vehicles have collected 2B+ miles of real-life autopilot driving.

All of these miles — particularly the edge cases — make Tesla’s self-driving product better and better.

While The War of Self-Driving Cars (LIDAR/Tesla) won’t create a rock group name quite like The War of the Currents (AC/DC), the stakes are just as big.

Topics: Energy Tesla

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