These Teslas, like the Model 3 and Model Y, rely completely on cameras for navigation. Autosteer could be limited to 80 mph for a while, and adaptive cruise control would demand a larger minimum following distance.
- Tesla took the radar sensors out of its North America-bound Model 3 and Model Y vehicles last year, and has now done the same in its larger models, the S and the X.
- Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said he believes that making self-driving cars requires them to operate like human drivers: with eyes and a brain. In the EVs, that means only using cameras and a neural net to determine what’s in the road ahead.
- Earlier this month, NHTSA announced an investigation into “phantom braking” issues that could affect all Model 3 and Model Y EVs that the company made without the radar sensors.
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Tesla is doubling down on its camera-only strategy for enhanced driver-assistance features in its electric vehicles, dubbed Tesla Vision. Late last week, Tesla updated its website to declare that, starting in mid-February 2022, all Model S and Model X vehicles built for the North American market would 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 certain active safety measures.
Tesla is also altering the way its radar-free vehicles operate in comparison to their radar-equipped counterparts. Tesla Vision cars will have their Autosteer limited to a maximum speed of 80 mph for a “brief duration during this transition,” according to the firm, and adaptive cruise control will demand a larger minimum following distance.
Currently, no Tesla car—indeed, 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. Tesla noted on its website, “We expect those ratings to be restored through confirmatory testing in the coming weeks.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s theory is that self-driving cars should learn to drive the same way humans learn: by seeing and thinking about what you see. Without mentioning the radar his company’s cars will no longer use, Musk posted on Twitter Friday that another advanced sensor type, lidar, might be “seductive,” but it’s not required for cars to learn how to drive themselves. “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,” he wrote. “Real-World AI.” It’s a song he’s been singing for a while. 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.”
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Advanced driver-assistance features that rely on cameras and a neural net might be able to offer some benefits, but Tesla recently came under scrutiny from NHTSA about a “phantom braking” issue that could affect over 400,000 Teslas. The investigation is looking at all 2021 and 2022 model year Tesla Model 3 and Model Y electric vehicles, pretty much exactly the ones that were built without radar sensors. That investigation is still in its early stages, but it is worth noting that other automakers, such as Nissan with the 2017–2018 Rogue SUV and Honda with the 2018–2019 Accord and 2017–2019 CR-V, have had problems with phantom braking incidents even though their vehicles use radar sensors alongside camera systems.