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Tesla bets on cameras, ditches ultrasonic sensors, pauses some features

Tesla confirms that as of October 2022, all Model 3 and Model Y Vehicles built for North America, as well as Europe, the Middle East and Taiwan, no longer include ultrasonic sensors.

For a range of driver assistance features, including Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot, and what Tesla considers Fully self-driving—Along with other active safety features — electric vehicles will rely solely on a camera-based system that the company calls Tesla Vision.

Tesla says that vehicles shipped without the ultrasonic sensor, which it is sometimes abbreviated as USS, will “temporarily” lose access to a range of features, including Parking Assist, automatic pill, Summon and Smart Summon.

Tesla promises all of these features will return, but the company doesn’t guarantee that its replacements will be any better. They will be restored “in the near future,” according to the company, “once these features achieve performance parity with today’s vehicles.”

Tesla Model 3 sensor - from owner's manual

Tesla Model 3 sensor – from owner’s manual

So far, the company has equipped 12 ultrasonic sensors for each vehicle, located in the front and rear bumpers. Ultrasonic sensors are mainly used for parking, as well as short range detection. They are also attached to the automatic emergency braking system in some vehicles, although this does not appear to be the case even in newer Teslas with them.

Tesla says that it has no plans to disable the ultrasonic sensors in its current fleet – something it could technically do in the air. Those affected features will continue to work as currently paid for in models with those sensors.

Tesla last year announced that it will drop the radar sensor from all of its vehicles, a move that at least temporarily cost the automaker some safety awards. For years, the company has successfully resisted the introduction of lidar sensors that other companies — and some safety officials — consider essential for future self-driving vehicles.

2022 Tesla Model 3

2022 Tesla Model 3

That shift off the radar corresponds, at least according to some sources, to a dramatic increase in complaints to NHTSA about automatic braking behavior — and the so-called cases. “Virtual brake.”

Tesla is supposed to save money both on the sensor and the use of the corresponding chip. CEO Elon Musk has stated that the signal/noise from the sensors actually degrades the performance of their camera system.

“Given the incremental improvements already achieved with Tesla Vision, and our roadmap for future Autonomous Driving innovations and capabilities, we are confident that this is the best strategy for the future of Tesla.” Autonomous driving and customer safety,” the company summarizes support page about change.

The company said that it will roll out the removal for other Model 3 and Model Y models globally, followed by the Model S and Model X in 2023.


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