Tesla was supplier Luminar’s largest LiDAR customer in the first quarter of 2024, despite the CEO of the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer having previously called the technology “freaking stupid”.

    The carmaker has famously dropped ultrasonic sensors and radar from its vehicles, and its CEO has been critical of others’ use of LiDAR technology.

    Despite this, Tesla accounted for “more than 10 per cent” of Luminar’s first-quarter revenue. Given the supplier reported total revenue of US$21 million during the period, that works out to around US$2 million.

    It’s unclear where Tesla has used the LiDAR technology it has acquired from Luminar.

    LiDAR (light detection and ranging) is a system of detecting objects and their distance through a laser with an infrared wavelength, beyond the scope of human vision.

    The technology is becoming increasingly common in cars, helping to power semi-autonomous driving technology. Geely-owned Volvo and Lotus, as well as Chinese EV brand Nio are among those that are rolling out LiDAR technology.

    But Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously criticised the use of the technology in cars.

    “It’s like having a whole bunch of expensive appendices,” he said at Tesla’s Autonomy Day event in 2019.

    “Like one appendix is bad, well how about a whole bunch of them? That’s ridiculous. You’ll see.”

    He also referred to LiDAR as a “fools’ errand” in 2019, adding “anyone relying on LiDAR is doomed”.

    “In cars, it’s freaking stupid. It’s expensive and unnecessary and once you solved vision it’s worthless,” said Mr Musk.

    “They’re all going to dump LiDAR, that’s my prediction – mark my words,” he added, noting he “[doesn’t] acutally super hate LiDAR”.

    Volvo is set to introduce its new flagship electric EX90 SUV this year, which will be its first application of LiDAR technology from Luminar.

    The brand claims the use of Luminar’s LiDAR sensor will enable it to detect pedestrians at up to 250m ahead of the car, while also being able to distinguish a tyre on a dark or black road at up to 120m ahead of the vehicle.

    MORE: What is LiDAR, and who is Luminar?

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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