There’s a logic to Tesla’s computer vision–only approach: We humans, too, mostly rely on our vision system to drive. We don’t have 3D mapping hardware wired to our brains to detect objects and avoid collisions.
But here’s where things fall apart. Current neural networks can at best replicate a rough imitation of the human vision system. Deep learning has distinct limits that prevent it from making sense of the world in the way humans do. Neural networks require huge amounts of training data to work reliably, and they don’t have the flexibility of humans when facing a novel situation not included in their training data.
This is something Musk tacitly acknowledged at in his remarks. “[Tesla Autopilot] does not work quite as well in China as it does in the U.S. because most of our engineering is in the U.S.” This is where most of the training data for Tesla’s computer vision algorithms come from.