Tesla is hard at work developing the final versions of its upcoming Cybertruck pickup, as well as a refined version of the Class 8 Semi truck, with sightings of two prototypes wearing what appears to be a lidar setup mounted on the hood of the development vehicles.

The Semi prototype was spotted by the Twitter user The Kilowatts, who posted a series of photos showing a XenomatiX unit fitted under the windshield, to which the user @dad_uff replied with an older photo of a prototype Cybertruck wearing the same setup of digital eyes.


Tesla and Elon Musk have previously said on several occasions that lidar, which stands for light detection and ranging, is "a fool’s errand," "unnecessary," and "like having a whole bunch of expensive appendices." So, with this being said, what’s Tesla doing with two lidar-equipped prototypes on the road?

Well, as Electrek notes, this is not the first time the American EV maker’s models have been spotted in the wild with lidar sensors and that’s because the company is testing its own vision-based driver assistance system against other sensors:

“The claim that Tesla may be planning to use LiDAR as part of its self-driving hardware suite is fundamentally untrue. We regularly test our own technologies against other sensors to calibrate our camera, sonar, and radar system,” commented Tesla, which was quoted by Electrek.

Lidar is a method for determining ranges by targeting an object or a surface with a laser and measuring the time for the reflected light to return to the receiver. 

With the Cybertruck’s production start inching closer, it makes sense to test its Hardware 4-based Autopilot/Full Self-Driving suite to make it ready for real-world conditions when the pickup will go into customers' hands this summer.

As for the Semi, it looks like Tesla is doing the same thing as with the Cybertruck, simply because when the Class 8 truck was revealed and the first deliveries were made, the company didn’t say anything about the vehicle’s driver assistance features. 

However, keen observers noted the presence of several Autopilot cameras on the Semi, which means the truck is equipped with the necessary hardware and now Tesla has started testing the cameras and sensor suite, which – if deployed – should make the Semi a compelling choice for long-haul deliveries.

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