Autopilot and Full Self-Driving will now rely solely on cameras.
Tesla made the news earlier this year after it announced that it was scrapping its future radar tech, relying only on a camera-based system called Tesla Vision.
More recently, Tesla announced that all Model 3 and Model Y models built for North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Taiwan will no longer be built with ultrasonic sensors. These models used to be equipped with camera systems, radar, and 12 ultrasonic sensors but will now rely solely on the camera system.
The transition to cars without radar and ultrasonic sensors will not have an impact on existing safety ratings, and the existing fleet will still benefit from over-the-air (OTA) updates as they already have a camera system in place.
On the downside, some of the features will be temporarily limited or inactive. These systems include Park Assist, Autopark, Summon, and Smart Summon. Once these features can perform the same way they did with radar and the ultrasonic sensors, they will be made available again via OTA updates.
All other available Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot, and Full Self-Driving capability features will be active at delivery.
"Given the incremental improvements already achieved with Tesla Vision, and our roadmap of future Autopilot improvements and abilities, we are confident that this is the best strategy for the future of Autopilot and the safety of our customers," Tesla said in a statement.
Along with removing the ultrasonic sensors, Tesla has launched its vision-based occupancy network, as used in the infamous Full Self-Driving Beta (FSDB). It replaces the inputs the car would have received from the sensors.
"With today's software, this approach gives Autopilot high-definition spatial positioning, longer range visibility, and the ability to identify and differentiate between objects. As with many Tesla features, our occupancy network will continue to improve rapidly over time," said Tesla.
It will be interesting to see how the move over to the camera-based system works out, as Tesla has been in the news several times due to Autopilot and FSDB.
Autopilot is under federal investigation, and FSDB has been a mixed bag. One week the system is hampered by larger stop signs, and the following week it saves a distracted driver from getting mowed down.
Toyota is at least in agreement with Tesla that a camera-based system is good enough, but every other manufacturer still relies on radar and LiDAR. Mercedes-Benz is more vocal about its autonomous efforts, which have so far reached Level 3, which is higher than any Tesla you can currently buy. According to Mercedes, a car needs multiple systems, if only to serve as fail safes. In other words, if the camera system fails, radar, LiDAR, and sensors are there to serve as a backup.
On the upside, removing these expensive items will make these systems cheaper.