The biggest change in his thinking revolves around lidar—the spinning laser sensors used by most major self-driving car developers. He said he used to think they were “so important” to making the driving technology work. Now, like Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Mr. Levandowski views lidar as not worth the trouble.
“Cars still do dumb things even with perfect information” about what is around them, he said. The real problem is predicting what others—including cars and pedestrians—are going to do. “Even if you can see it, it’s not enough. You need to have proper reasoning.” In other words, a “fundamental breakthrough” in AI is necessary to move self-driving car technology forward, he said. “The existing, state-of-the-art [software] is not sufficient to know how to predict the future” of objects around the vehicle.