Tesla to Replace Radar in its Model 3, Model Y in the U.S. - Rolling Out ‘Pure Vision Autopilot' Using Cameras

Tesla to Replace Radar in its Model 3, Model Y in the U.S. - Rolling Out ‘Pure Vision Autopilot' Using Cameras

Author: Eric Walz   

Electric automaker Tesla Inc said on Tuesday that it will replace a radar sensor in the Model 3 and Model Y vehicles sold in North America with a camera to better support Tesla's Autopilot and its latest automated driving feature called "Full Self-Driving" (FSD).

Tesla has been under pressure after a series of high profile accidents, including fatalities, linked to its Autopilot and the latest version of its FSD autonomous driving system. The cameras will be installed into production vehicles beginning next month.

"Pure vision Autopilot is now rolling out in North America," CEO Elon Musk wrote in a tweet on Tuesday.

Musk added that Tesla plans to release an improved "FSD beta V9.0" based on the pure vision system about three weeks later.

"FSD subscription will be enabled around the same time," he said.

Tesla pioneered the use of autonomous driving technology with its Autopilot automated driving feature. In October, Tesla rolled out the beta version of its improved FSD system to a limited number of people. Unlike Autopilot which is designed for automated highway driving, FSD enables Tesla cars to also navigate on city streets and secondary roads in semi-autonomous mode.

Tesla planned to expand its beta program, but faced scrutiny over its capabilities of its Autopilot and FSD touted by Musk, as well as a series of accidents.

Over the past several years, Tesla has also been criticized for not using the laser-based perception technology lidar for navigation in its vehicles like other automakers are doing for their autonomous driving systems.

Musk once referred to the use of lidar as a "fool's errand" despite its widespread use by automakers and dozens of autonomous driving startups. He called lidar technology "lame".

Instead of lidar, Tesla's autonomous driving system is camera-based, relying on advanced computer vision and machine learning algorithms for identifying other vehicles and road lanes for safe navigation.

Although Tesla's approach helped reduce development costs for commercialization, experts and other companies have raised safety concerns.

Tesla said the transition to a camera-focused system may result in limitations of some features such as lane-centering and parking assistance, saying those functions will be restored via software updates "in the weeks ahead."

All new Model S and Model X cars, as well as all vehicles built for markets outside North America, will still come equipped with a radar for automated driving, Tesla said.

Radar is usually combined with cameras and lidar for autonomous vehicles. The data collected from the individual sensors is stitched together in a process known as sensor fusion. A radar sensor uses radio waves and sensors to detect objects, such as other vehicles.

In March, Tesla told California regulators it might not achieve full self-driving technology by the end of 2021.

In Tesla's most recent earnings call, CFO Zachary Kirkhorn claimed that the automaker was working on a subscription plan for its FSD package, which cost an additional $10,000 on top of the price of the vehicle. The upcoming subscription service will give Tesla owners the ability to try the system out before deciding to purchase it outright.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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