At this point, we really have more questions than we have answers related to this recent phenomenon. As you can see from the videos below shared by The Kilowatts, this Tesla Model Y has a large rack on top with wiring harnesses and what appears to be some sort of imaging hardware.
The Kilowatts saw the Model Y with manufacturer plates out driving around in the San Francisco area. They captured another video of the electric crossover, which we've embedded below. In addition, You You Xue of Model 3 Road Trip fame also snapped some photos of the same Model Y.
These videos and images raise a whole lot of questions. What is this rack? Will Tesla's Full Self-Driving vehicles have additional equipment and sensors? Will Tesla actually use LiIDAR? Is this specific to future Robotaxis?
While it could be anything really, and may certainly be related to Tesla's Full Self-Driving capability, it could be as simple as a mapping or imaging excursion. However, it looks like there's LiDAR on the rack.
The Kilowatts captured a few videos of the mysterious Model Y at night. However, as you can see from You You Xue's photos, it looks like it's the same Model Y, and he took the pictures in daylight. According to Teslarati, other people from the area have also mentioned seeing the same Model Y at the Daly City Supercharger earlier in the week.
Just because there's LiDAR on the roof of a single Tesla Model Y doesn't mean Tesla is planning to implement it across its lineup. Comments and speculation point to this being part of a validation process for Full Self-Driving. Even if Elon Musk realized he was wrong, and that LiDAR is the only way to make FSD work properly, we'd be very surprised if he had a huge rack mounted on the top of every Tesla vehicle. Perhaps it would be ok for taxis, but not passenger cars.
Commenters point to Luminar Hydra LiDAR units on the Model Y's roof. A quick search says Luminar designs equipment for vehicle testing and development programs. The Kilowatts told Teslarati the Luminar equipment may be for "ground-truthing," which is apparently something Tesla should do prior to launching its FSD to a wider audience.
Check it all out and then share your take with us in our comment section below.