After ditching radar sensors from its electronic driver-assist features in 2021, Tesla is now in the process of eliminating ultrasonic sensors as well. It means Tesla’s driver-assist features like Autopilot and Full Self-Driving will have to rely exclusively on Tesla Vision, the company’s in-house developed camera-based sensing system.
Tesla on Tuesday said it will end the installation of ultrasonic sensors on its Model 3 and Model Y built built for North America, Europe, and parts of Asia this month, and expects to end the installation for the vehicles built for other regions in the coming months. The automaker will do the same for the Model S and Model X in 2023.
Tesla vehicles have 12 of the ultrasonic sensors which are found on the front and rear fascias. These are typically used for parking applications and to detect close objects.
Instead of these sensors, Tesla Vision relies on cameras and an algorithm Tesla has branded Occupancy Network. However, a few features that rely on the ultrasonic sensors, like Park Assist and Summon, will be disabled for a few months until Occupancy Network is up to scratch, Tesla said.
You might be wondering why Tesla would want to remove sensors, especially considering the company’s self-driving capability is far short of CEO Elon Musk’s promise of vehicles that can drive without anyone behind the wheel. The move will help Tesla save on costs and the use of chips, but Musk has also said the additional signal or noise generated by the sensors in combination with Tesla Vision makes the driver-assist features perform worse than Tesla Vision on its own, though he didn’t rule out adding back sensors if the performance is improved.
In the case of radar, Model 3 and Model Y vehicles with Tesla Vision alone have either maintained or improved their active safety ratings in the U.S. and Europe, compared to vehicles also equipped with radar, according to Tesla. The company also said the vehicles with Tesla Vision alone also performed better in pedestrian automatic emergency braking intervention.