Tesla phasing out ultrasonic sensors as it moves toward a camera-only system

Engadget

Tesla has announced that it's phasing out ultrasonic sensors (USS) used in its EVs to detect short-range obstacles, Electrek has reported. While other automakers use LiDAR, radar and other sensors on top of cameras, Elon Musk's company is determined to use only cameras in its Tesla Vision driver assistance system.

It will remove the ultrasonic sensors from Model 3 and Model Y vehicles over the next few months, then eliminate them in Model S and Model X models by 2023. They're mainly used for parking and short-range collision warnings, Tesla said.

With the changes, new vehicles not equipped with USS will have some features limited or disabled, including Park Assist that warns of surrounding objects when traveling under 5 MPH, along with Autopark, Summon and Smart Summon. The features will be restored via over-the-air updates "in the near future," once the features perform just as well with the camera-only system, the company said. It believes the changes will not affect the crash safety ratings of these vehicles.

Last year, Tesla started phasing out radar sensors in favor of vision-only Autopilot, tweeting at the time that "vision has much more precision [than radar]." And Musk has previously told employees that if humans can drive cars with binocular vision only, machines should be able to as well, The New York Times reported last year.

However, Tesla's radar was able to detect potential accidents "two vehicles ahead" that drivers couldn't even see, so that appears to be a safety benefit lost. And when radar was discontinued, the company had a spate of "phantom braking" accidents where the system mistakenly calculated a car was about to collide with something — triggering an NHTSA probe.