Tesla is removing ultrasonic sensors from Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, the next step in CEO Elon Musk’s plan to support its advanced driver assistance system and other active safety features solely with cameras and software.
All Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built for North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Taiwan will no longer include the 12 ultrasonic sensors found on the front and rear bumpers of its vehicles beginning this month. Ultrasonic sensors, which use ultrasonic waves to measure distance, are commonly used as proximity sensors to support anti-collision safety systems, particularly in low-speed applications such as parking.
Tesla made the announcement about 17 months after saying it would remove radar from its vehicles.
The decision to forego radar or ultrasonics runs counter to the rest of the industry, which is adding, not removing, sensors to support ADAS.
To provide the sensing required for ADAS features such as adaptive cruise control, which matches the speed of a car to surrounding traffic, as well as lane keeping and automatic lane changes, automakers typically use a combination of radar and cameras — and now even lidar.
Tesla began its so-called Tesla Vision plan in 2021, when it removed radar from North American Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, followed by Model S and Model X in 2022. Tesla expanded that earlier this year to include Model Y and Model 3 vehicles delivered to customers in Europe and the Middle East.
The removal of ultrasonic sensors (or USS) will begin with Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, according to Tesla. It will include Model S and Model X vehicles in 2023.
The company also announced the launch of a “vision-based occupancy network” to replace the inputs generated by USS in Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta software — the $15,000 package that augments Autopilot but is not self-driving. Tesla claims that this approach improves Autopilot by providing it with greater visibility and the ability to identify and distinguish between different objects.
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According to Tesla, any vehicle delivered to customers without USS will initially have limited or inactive features such as park assist and summon, which allow a person to move their vehicle forward or back via the Tesla app. According to the company, those features will eventually be restored via over-the-air software updates.