Someone spotted a Tesla Model S driving with a LIDAR sensor for the first time

A Tesla owner spotted a Model S sporting a LIDAR sensor, the same technology used by Google’s self-driving cars.

The Model S was seen driving around Palo Alto with the LIDAR sensor on June 30, according to the Tesla owner’s blog post, which was first spotted by Electrek.

LIDAR is a remote sensing technology that uses lasers to map out the world around it. It’s often used to make high-resolution maps and is a key part of the technology that Google uses for its self-driving cars.

The car has a giant Stanford logo on the rear windshield and a Stanford licence plate frame, so it could be part of the university’s testing. Stanford does have a Center for Automotive Research, and built a self-driving DeLorean for “Back to the Future” day in October.

But the person who spotted the Tesla Model S with Lidar, who goes by Tesla Owner in the blog post, said they saw it enter the back parking lot of Tesla headquarters.

“Clearly, Tesla is trying to convince locals that this is part of a Stanford research project. Although Stanford is a very wealthy university, I doubt they would be using a brand new Model S for experimental purposes. My suspicions were confirmed that this was a Tesla corporate vehicle when I saw it enter the back parking lot of Tesla headquarters!”

Stanford and Tesla were not immediately available for comment.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said LIDAR is unnecessary for making cars truly autonomous.

“I don’t think you need LIDAR. I think you can do this all with passive optical and then with maybe one forward RADAR,” Musk said during at a press conference in October. “I think that completely solves it without the use of LIDAR. I’m not a big fan of LIDAR, I don’t think it makes sense in this context.”

That’s why Tesla, at least for now, has opted to use high-tech camera sensors as the primary eyes for the car. Teslas also use 12 long-range ultrasonic sensors that provide 360 degree vision, and a forward facing RADAR system to help enable its semi-autonomous Autopilot system.

But this isn’t the first time a Tesla has been spotted with LIDAR. Reddit user SteveP98 posted three photos of a Tesla with a handful of new sensors in March. The Model S, spotted in the San Francisco Bay Area, had LIDAR on the side mirror.

And a report surfaced Wednesday that Tesla is working to improve its Autopilot — which lets Tesla cars steer themselves, avoid obstacles, change lanes, and even self-park — to recognise and react to stop signs and traffic lights.

H/T Electrek

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