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A Tesla Model S with Lidar spotted on the road around Palo Alto

TechCrunch TechCrunch 7/07/2016 Mark Lelinwalla

Tesla may be taking a page from Google’s Self-Driving Car Project’s book. A Model S was spotted near the company’s Palo Alto headquarters, strapped with Lidar sensors, as reported by Elektrek. Ironically, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has strongly dismissed Lidar in the past, relegating it to a technology that the company doesn’t need to achieve fully-autonomous cars. Hmm…maybe he has changed his mind?

A Tesla owner took to a blog post to describe the sight of spotting a Model S with Lidar sensors on the road and we can’t say that any of his observances and opinions sound far-fetched at all.

“Today I saw the first car that I strongly suspect is a Tesla self-driving test vehicle,” the Tesla owner wrote, accompanying his post with a picture. “The Tesla self-driving test vehicle is disguised as cleverly as possible.  A giant Stanford logo on the rear windshield and a Stanford license plate frame with a paper plate.  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!”

As of March, California Department of Motor Vehicles’ data cited Google with 73 cars and 230 permitted human drivers for self-driving vehicle testing in the state and that completely trumps its closest competition, Tesla, which had eight registered vehicles and five drivers at the time. But stemming from this blog post, if you see a self-driving vehicle with Lidar being tested around Palo Alto these days, it may not be a foregone conclusion that it’s a Google vehicle. It may be a Tesla.

It will be interesting to see if Musk addresses this as much as he has been responding to the criticism and scrutiny over the company’s Autopilot-related Model S death lately.

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