Goodbye Radar, Hello Cameras

Goodbye Radar, Hello Cameras

Tesla is doubling down on its camera-only approach for advanced driver-assistance features in its electric vehicles, dubbed Tesla Vision. Late last week, Tesla updated its website to reveal that, starting in mid-February 2022, all Model S and Model X vehicles built for the North American market will use only Tesla Vision, the automaker's camera-based Autopilot technology.

All Model S and Model X EVs intended for North America were equipped with radar sensors until last month's modification, but since May 2021, the firm has been constructing new Model 3 and Model Y vehicles without front radar sensors. That's when Tesla announced a switch from radar to Tesla Vision for those cars, similar to what the business is doing now with the X and S models. Tesla Vision combines visual data streams with neural network processing to provide Autopilot, Full-Self Driving, and some active safety measures.

Tesla is also altering the way its radar-free vehicles operate in comparison to their radar-equipped counterparts. During this transition, Tesla Vision cars will have their Autosteer limited to a maximum speed of 80 mph and will require a greater minimum following distance for adaptive cruise control, according to the Tesla.

Side pillar Tesla camera

Currently, no Tesla vehicle—or in fact, no production passenger vehicle from any automaker—is capable of self-driving. Tesla concedes that two of the automaker's active-safety technologies, forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, have yet to be evaluated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on vehicles equipped with Tesla Vision. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given these two technologies a rating on Tesla cars equipped with radar sensors.

"We expect those ratings will be restored through confirmatory testing in the coming weeks," Tesla wrote on its website.

Elon Musk, Tesla's Technoking, believes that self-driving cars should learn to drive in the same manner that humans do: by watching and thinking about what they observe. Musk said on Twitter Friday that another advanced sensor type, lidar, might be "seductive," but it's not essential for cars to learn how to drive themselves, without addressing the radar his company's cars will no longer employ.

Regular Tesla tweeter, Whole Mars Catalog sent a message to Tesla’s CEO saying:

It blows my mind that some people want Tesla to abandon their differentiated approach to autonomy to throw their lot in with the LIDAR losers, none of whom have managed to build a successful business in over a decade.

To which Musk responded:

LIDAR is a seductive local maximum. SpaceX designed & built them to dock with ISS. However, the road system was designed to work with biological neural nets & eyes, so a general solution to self-driving necessarily will require silicon neural nets & cameras. Real-world AI.

He’s been saying this for some time. Last October, Musk posted, "Humans drive with eyes & biological neural nets, so makes sense that cameras & silicon neural nets are only way to achieve generalized solution to self-driving."

Advanced driver-assistance technologies that rely on cameras and a neural network may be able to provide some benefits, but Tesla is now under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a "phantom braking" issue that might affect over 400,000 Tesla vehicles.

The investigation is looking into all Tesla Model 3 and Model Y electric vehicles made in the years 2021 and 2022, focusing on those that were built without radar sensors. Although the enquiry is still in its early stages, several automakers, like Nissan with the 2017–2018 Rogue SUV and Honda with the 2018–2019 Accord and 2017–2019 CR-V, have experienced phantom braking events despite using radar sensors and video systems in their vehicles.