Tesla Model Y Gets LiDAR Sensor in Test, Suggesting Robotaxi Development

Tesla Model Y Gets LiDAR Sensor in Test, Suggesting Robotaxi Development

A Tesla Model Y has been spotted on California’s highway 101 with a large LiDAR sensor array mounted to its roof. The bulky hardware suggests that Tesla is conducting testing, either to validate its camera-based self-driving or as part of its engineering efforts for a LiDAR-based robotaxi.

Recent reports claimed Tesla had cancelled a rumoured Model 2 affordable EV project — only for design head Franz von Holzhausen to later deny the cancellation — in favour of an autonomous robotaxi reportedly based on a mix of existing and next-generation Tesla technology.

A recent image sent to The Verge by one of the publication’s readers depicts a Tesla Model Y with a large LiDAR sensor bolted to its roof, suggesting that Tesla may be testing LiDAR on the Model Y or validating its vision cameras. Since Tesla’s Model Y fleet is mostly equipped with only cameras to power the Full Self-Driving Supervised autonomous driving suite, it stands to reason that Tesla may be testing FSD on Model Y hardware with LiDAR.

Other speculation has proposed that Tesla may simply be validating its Model Y vision-only system, but that idea runs counter to Tesla’s recent purchase of over $2 million in LiDAR sensors from Luminar.

The Model Y is part of Tesla’s mass-market EV segment — and recently took the crown as most-sold single model, surpassing Toyota’s RAV4 — which is exactly the same platform previous leaks and rumours claimed Tesla would use for the robotaxi.

While Tesla still relies entirely on a camera-only approach to autonomous driving, competitors, like NIO and Xiaomi both have LiDAR sensors, and there have been more than a few complaints about Tesla’s decision to go the vision-only approach rather over the LiDAR sensors it used previously.

Currently, Tesla plants to unveil its robotaxi on August 8 at a Robotaxi Day, but it remains to be seen what form its upcoming autonomous vehicle takes.

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