Tesla Semi Prototype Spotted With Intriguing Gear Points to FSD Capability

Although the first Semi units have already been delivered to customers, Tesla is still testing prototypes of the Class-8 truck. A recent sighting showed a Semi tractor featuring a LiDAR device attached to the hood, hinting at a potential FSD capability that would be unleashed in the future.
Tesla Semi prototype spotted with intriguing gear points to FSD capability 9 photos
Photo: @klwtts via Twitter | Edited
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Tesla has dismissed the use of LiDAR, and Elon Musk even called it a "crutch" in a 2018 earnings call. One year later, he kept his opinion, calling LiDAR "a fool's errand." Nevertheless, many Tesla prototypes have been spotted driving with LiDAR sensors attached to their bodies, making people wonder why. If LiDAR is such an unnecessary tool, why is Tesla still using it, albeit only in development? Could this be a similar story to the radar sensors, first removed and now back in business?

Recently, an intriguing Tesla Semi prototype has been spotted in Palo Alto driving with a strange device attached to its hood. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a LiDAR system built by XenomatiX. The Belgian startup developed a unique solid-state radar sensor that combines the benefits of a regular camera with those offered by LiDAR. More specifically, XenomatiX simultaneously offers a 2D camera image and a 3D point cloud.

Until recently, Tesla was spotted using Luminar LiDAR sensors for its prototypes. The switch to XenomatiX is rather significant, especially as it's not the first time we see a Tesla prototype featuring the device. If you recall, the Internet was in flame last August when a Tesla Cybertruck was caught on camera with a similar contraption attached to its hood. At the time, people joked about it being the laser device that would clean the windshield instead of the Gigawiper.

Thanks to a lucky image shared by Twitter group The Kilowatts (@klwtts), we now know they were not that far off. Lasers are still involved, although not for wiping the windshield. Instead, Tesla uses the device to calibrate the FSD sensors installed on a new model. Tesla Vision can learn how to interpret the 2D images from the cameras and estimate depths the same as humans do, but it needs a reference to calibrate the whole system. This is necessary whenever a new vehicle model is launched because the sensors are positioned differently.

This explains why the XenomatiX system was used for the Cybertruck and the Semi. We know the Cybertruck is designed to offer the same FSD capabilities as the rest of the Tesla fleet. Nevertheless, the use of the LiDAR calibration system on the Semi is much more interesting. This signals that Tesla wants to expand the FSD Beta program to the Semi trucks, hence the calibration. We already know that the Semi has all the necessary sensors, complete with the FSD Hardware computer.

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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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