GM throwing shade at Tesla's self-driving capabilities

19th October 2017
Alice Matthews

The act of publicly insulting a rival can be an art form unto itself. For example, Dorothy Parker once wrote of Audrey Hepburn's acting: 'Miss Hepburn ran the whole gamut of emotions - from A to B'. Then there's football coach Steve Spurrier, who once said of a rival coach, 'I saw a story saying Jim Haslett comes in at 4:30 every morning. That's not doing him much good'.

Author: Sam Chase, The Connected Car

Scott Miller, Director of autonomous vehicle integration at GM took a more direct approach when he addressed the Australian media in Detroit in early October. Discussing rival Elon Musk and Tesla's efforts to achieve Level 5 autonomy in the future with the same core technology Tesla uses now, Miller described Musk as 'full of crap'.

"The level of technology and knowing what it takes to do the mission, to say you can be a full level five with just cameras and radars is not physically possible," said Miller, as reported by Car Advice. "I think you need the right sensors and right computing package to do it. Think about it, we have Lidar, radar and cameras on [GM autonomous vehicles]. The reason we have that type of sensor package is that we think you need not be deeply integrated in to be level five, you should have redundancy."

Unlike most companies, Tesla does not include Lidar, a sensor technology that makes an autonomous vehicle system aware of its environment by sending out millions of laser pulses every second.

While Lidar has been maligned for being unwieldy and cost-prohibitive, most autonomous vehicle developers consider it to be an essential, even foundational component of a self-driving car's suite of sensors. Tesla puts a heavy emphasis on computer vision instead, as does Lvl5, an AV startup founded by former Tesla engineers.

"Do you really want to trust just one sensor measuring the speed of the car coming out of an intersection before you pull out?" Miller said. "I think you need some confirmation. So, radar and Lidar do a good job at measuring object speed, cameras do a great job at identifying objects. So, you can use the right sensor images to give you confidence in what you're seeing, which I think is important if you're going to put this technology out for general consumption."

Miller is not the first to raise these questions about Tesla's AV systems, although he is the first high-level employee of one of Tesla's major competitors to do so so openly.

Musk and Tesla certainly have an impressive track record developing semi-autonomous systems, but whether they have what it takes to get over the hump for Level 5 autonomy remains to be seen.

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