Why Is Tesla Failing To Use Forward-looking Infrared (FLIR) or LIDAR?

I have been quite vocal about how I believe it will be many many years before Tesla (or any company) solves for Level 5 autonomous driving. To refresh, level 5 autonomy means there is no steering wheel in the transport – just a box for people to sit & relax while the robot does 100% of the “driving”. I say this as a Tesla Bull who believes Tesla is doing great things – innovative beyond belief – but still not perfect.

In my opinion, one of Tesla’s biggest failures is the removal of all non-camera based vision assistance devices, namely forward-looking infrared, or FLIR. Most criticism of Tesla’s full self driving ambitions comes from their infamous refusal to use LIDAR (lasers + radar) when nearly all other companies are using it. Elon & Tesla insist that a vision based approach is better, relying solely on cameras and refusing help from FLIR or LIDAR.

As a proud Tesla Model Y owner myself I can confidently say that Level 5 autonomy is many, many years away. I believe one way to get to L5 faster is to include help from FLIR (or LIDAR, but Elon may be right, LIDAR may be overkill). FLIR, on the other hand, is small, only needs to be hidden in the front of a vehicle, and is inexpensive to produce in volume. It seems that adding an artificial intelligence enhancement like FLIR would be a tremendous help to vehicles trying to drive themselves through rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog, dark and any other countless scenarios where FLIR can “see” better than a human eye.

I can say with certainty that my Tesla is far from seeing better than me, especially long ranges. I see things ahead and around curves that my vehicle is slow to react to. Surely this will get better with cameras in time, but cameras will always be limited by their placement & risk of getting dirty/being covered up. With FLIR, one sensor can cover the most important area – where the car is going – and be more certain than a human eye (in nearly all conditions) that there are no objects ahead on the path.

My prediction is that Tesla eventually adds FLIR (or LIDAR but more likely FLIR) to their full self driving package. I could be wrong (often am!)

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