Does Rivian Use LIDAR? The Answer May Surprise You!

LiDAR is a remote sensing method that seems perfect for autonomous driving applications. It may seem like a new concept, but it’s not uncommon to see it in headlines along with the names of vehicle manufacturers such as Rivian.

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Rivian does not currently use LiDAR technology with their vehicles. Instead, Rivian vehicles rely on a system of cameras, sensors, and radars to monitor their surroundings.

In this article, we explore Rivian’s relationship with LiDAR, their pressures to implement the technology, and how it compares to the camera sensors in heavy use by most manufacturers.

rivian camera resolution

Rivian’s Relationship With LiDAR

You’re not missing something if you thought that Rivian vehicles either used LiDAR or had plans to implement the technology.

The manufacturer has released numerous press statements talking about LiDAR technology and its importance to autonomous driving, and their test vehicles still host the equipment on the roof.

There are several theories why Rivian is distancing itself from LiDAR technology, but the relationship has a muddled history.

Rivian Test Vehicles with LiDAR

If you pay attention to the test vehicles Rivian has on the road, you’ll notice that many of those spotted carry a variety of testing equipment, including LiDAR on the roof of the vehicle.

They’ve even included statements on testing this technology in recent stories.

You still see these on the road, despite the current hush from Rivian about their excitement and determination to use LiDAR.

This indicates that they still want to explore the possibility of LiDAR technology for autonomous driving.

Current Rivian Vehicles with LiDAR

No current Rivian vehicles use LiDAR for driver assistance. Many consider LiDAR a piece in the puzzle of autonomous driving, but Rivian does not currently have a self-driving format.

Instead, they offer Driver+ as a standard feature on all vehicles. This is a hands-free driving feature that also offers several safety and help features, such as:

  • Collision warnings
  • Lane assists and warnings
  • Automatic high beams
  • Parking assist
  • Collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking

The Driver+ program doesn’t use LiDAR technology (yet), and instead gathers information using 11 cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 5 radars.

LiDAR, Rivian Competitors, and Investors

While Rivian doesn’t currently use LiDAR technology in the vehicles it has on the road, there are still many connections to the tech, including investor ties and pressure from the competition.

Many major Rivian investors also invest in LiDAR technology, including:

  • Amazon
  • Ford
  • Cox Automotive

LiDAR technology is also a major part of autonomous driving research by major car manufacturers like Toyota.

Almost every company that is working on self-driving cars is looking to LiDAR for the next breakthrough.

The only exception here seems to be Tesla, and only time will tell whether Elon Musk’s belief that cameras and sensors are sufficient will pay off.

rivian lidar camera resolution

LiDAR vs Cameras

With gathering information for self-driving cars, the battle seems to be between LiDAR technology and cameras.

Both rely on electromagnetic emission, reception of sensors, and reflection to complete their processes, but there are a few key differences.

LiDAR emits the light that it sees. It’s able to calculate the distance to many objects, simultaneously detected, with incredible accuracy.

The technology is already in use to map entire cities with an extremely low level of error.

Modern cameras use CMOS image sensors. They have heavy testing and application, and are more widely produced.

It’s easy to take up sides for either system, but manufacturers must consider the evidence supporting the technology, cost to implement, and the likelihood of success before putting it into their vehicles.


LiDAR, which stands for light detection and ranging, started out in airplanes in 1960, but it wasn’t adapted to vehicles until engineer and Velodyne founder Dave Hall invented a 3D printed version in 2005.

This is what current vehicle manufacturers rely on for their attempts at autonomous driving.

Cameras have a longer history in the area. While they’ve existed for quite a while, the modern CMOS sensors used for autonomous driving applications come from those developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1993.

They’ve gone through many tests and modifications, and have over a decade of advancement in LiDAR technology in the area.


The lengthy history of cameras and wide production translates to a lower cost. CMOS image sensors have a greater supply, and they’ve been able to cut costs through tests and advancement.

Vehicle manufacturers not only spend less on cameras, but they have less trouble getting a hold of enough stock to put in their vehicles.

LiDAR technology may be promising enough for a long-term investment, but it costs more per vehicle and still requires research investment.

Manufacturers pay more in this area, and that passes on to more expensive retail prices on their vehicles.


There’s no way to look into the future and determine which one will reign supreme, but there’s enough promise to keep looking into LiDAR.

Tesla founder Elon Musk believes that any performance benefits offered by LiDAR technology are insignificant when compared to what cameras can do, and he claims that all Tesla vehicles will be able to drive autonomously by 2023 using cameras alone.

Rivian’s backtracking to a reliance on cameras, sensors, and radars indicates that LiDAR technology may still be a ways off, but they still have enough faith to continue research and testing.

Machines require an exorbitant amount of data to make the decisions needed for autonomous driving, and they likely don’t have everything they need to put rubber to the road with LiDAR at the wheel.

When it comes down to it, LiDAR may be a long-term strategy and second-stage technology for better safety and performance

Final Thoughts

Rivian does not currently use LiDAR technology in any of their vehicles, but their insistence on testing it and investor pressure lead us to believe it’s not out of the picture.

We may need to wait a few years to see any consumer cars with LiDAR sensors on the road, but current evidence indicates that these vehicles will be safer than those with camera sensors.

The driver is always the last line of defense when behind the wheel, but LiDAR yields higher accuracy that manufacturers find irresistible.