For the last several years, Tesla’s vehicles have come equipped with an array of cameras, ultrasonic sensors, and radar sensors utilized by Autopilot and other safety systems. But from May 2021 onward, Tesla will ditch the radar sensors in its cars and move to a Autopilot system that only uses cameras, which the company has dubbed Tesla Vision.
The company said in a release, “Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built for the North American market will no longer be equipped with radar. Instead, these will be the first Tesla vehicles to rely on camera vision and neural net processing to deliver Autopilot, Full-Self Driving and certain active safety features.” The changes won’t affect Model S or Model X cars yet.
When the Model S was the only car Tesla made, it relied solely on cameras for its suite of driver aid systems. However, Tesla wasn’t marketing Autopilot or Full Self Driving almost a decade ago when the Model S made its debut. This major hardware change comes hot on the heels of recent scrutiny of Tesla’s Autopilot system after a fatal crash that involved a Model S in Texas.
Not only that, but Tesla just debuted its new 4D Radar tech in October of last year, so the move away from radar is a surprising one, even if Elon Musk’s longstanding antipathy to lidar perhaps hinted that the company would go all-in on camera tech eventually. We reached out to Tesla to ask why the company is making the move away from the radar tech it recently lauded.
The change also limits a few of the Model 3 and Y features on newly-delivered vehicles with the radar system removed. Autosteer will be disabled at speeds over 75 mph and at longer minimum following distances. Tesla also said Smart Summon and the car’s Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance systems may be disabled at delivery, and restored in at a future date via over-the-air updates.
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