Autonomous vehicles use electronic sensors to gather information about the outside world. Those sensors substitute for the eyes and ears of human drivers. The data they collect is fed to high speed computers who turn it into digital maps that are then used to guide the car along its path. The typical assortment of sensors include ultrasound equipment, GPS input, cameras, radar transmitters, and LIDAR.
LIDAR is much like radar except it used pulses of light instead of pulses of radio waves to probe the surrounding environment. According to to Seeking Alpha, it is accurate to about 3/4″ when travelling at highway speeds while cameras are only accurate to about 4″ under similar conditions. If LIDAR is so accurate, doesn’t that mean it is an essential component for all autonomous vehicles?