Tesla's debut of vehicles without ultrasonic sensors raise questions

By Kevin Armstrong
Will Teslas have a blind spot directly in front of the vehicle?
Will Teslas have a blind spot directly in front of the vehicle?
Munro

They may look sleek and smooth without those circular sonic sensors, but the non-ultra-sonic Tesla was not welcomed with open arms by hundreds of Reddit users.

Two weeks after announcing it was removing ultrasonic sensors (USS), new Model 3s were delivered to owners looking noticeably less polka-dotted, leading to heated debates and several unanswered questions as the company transitions to an improved Tesla Vision and its occupancy network.

A few users said they would cancel their order, questioning how the system could effectively replace the sensors parking. User Zeek215 posted: "I had a base Model 3 to be delivered next month. I'm cancelling because of this. Not just because of the USS, but it's a trend in the wrong direction for what is an expensive car." MunroLivereported Tesla would save $114 per vehicle by eliminating USS. Users said they would have gladly paid the additional $114 to keep the system in the car.

However, this figure doesn't include the additional logistics needed to source, stock and maintain these sensors.

Munro takes a look at Tesla's USS

The biggest question about removing the USS system and going strictly with Vision is regarding accuracy. Tesla owners like pulling into parking spaces or garages and having the sensors indicate down to inches the distance to objects. The concern is that precision will be lost, and many people believe there is no way Vision can replace it.

But people were defending the switch. Callmesaul8889 posted: "Who said they don't know if they can guarantee feature parity? I've heard a bunch of Redditors claim that, but Tesla has explicitly said they feel they can match or exceed the USSs with Vision alone in the original announcement... I get the impression that some of you guys assume Tesla has a bunch of dumb dumb engineers who are constantly cutting costs without thinking of the consequences..."

Tesla anticipated these concerns when it announced it was removing USS. In that announcement, it stated: With today's software, this approach gives Autopilot high-definition spatial positioning, longer range visibility and ability to identify and differentiate between objects. As with many Tesla features, our occupancy network will continue to improve rapidly over time.

Many Reddit users who were more supportive of the Vision system believe it will reach parity with USS quickly, as the company said in the initial announcement. We will know when Tesla is confident with Vision when the non-polka dot vehicles get some features enabled.

For example, the non-USS Teslas will not be able to use Park Assist, Autopark, Summon or Smart Summon. But according to Tesla's website: once these features achieve performance parity with today's vehicles, they will be restored via a series of over-the-air software updates.

Another popular question was if the company would stop supporting the system in USS-enabled vehicles. Telsa posted: At this time, we do not plan to remove the functionality of ultrasonic sensors in our existing fleet. USS will be removed from the Model S and Model X in 2023.

The Kilowatts on Twitter took a close look at these new Teslas' cameras and discovered no significant differences between the two.

The repeater camera on a Tesla without USS compared to a current Tesla with USS
The repeater camera on a Tesla without USS compared to a current Tesla with USS
@klwtts/Twitter

Some speculated that Tesla would add a front bumper camera, but that doesn't appear to be the case. The biggest noticeable change is that the repeater cameras on the fenders appeared to have a slightly different housing. There's no word whether the lens itself, the sensor, or the angle of the camera is any different from previous Teslas.

Cybertruck

Since the Cybertruck's introduction, we've wondered how Tesla would integrate ultrasonic sensors into the vehicle, however, it looks like we now have our answer.

There's no question that this move cuts costs and reduces complexity for Tesla, allowing them to manufacture even more vehicles and increase operating profits. The only question is how close can Tesla's occupancy network get to the accuracy that ultrasonic sensors provide.

Cybertruck Unveiling in Five Minutes

Tesla Vehicles Spotted With LiDAR: What Do They Use It For?

By Karan Singh
Not a Tesla App

Tesla recently hit the news for purchasing approximately $2M in LiDAR sensors from Luminar, one of Tesla’s long-term suppliers. You’ve probably seen photos of Tesla’s Semi and various Tesla models, including the Model 3 and Model Y sporting LIDAR equipment on the roof. These cars drive around with manufacturer plates scanning streets and highways.

However, many people confuse Tesla’s purpose in purchasing LiDAR equipment with using it for FSD versus testing. So, let’s look at what LiDAR is, and why Tesla uses it on its Fleet Validation Vehicles.

What is LiDAR?

LiDAR stands for Light Detecting and Ranging – essentially using lasers to measure distances. A laser pulse is sent out, and the time it takes to return is measured – providing extremely accurate distance measurements.

Some companies working on self-driving vehicles, including Waymo and BYD, use LiDAR as part of their self-driving suites, but Tesla is one of the few stand-outs that does not. Even Rimac’s “Verne” Robotaxi – which uses self-driving technology from Mobileye, also uses LiDAR.

While LiDAR can produce extremely accurate and high-quality 3D environments, it comes with its downsides as well. Not only is LiDAR costly and requires large gear strapped to a vehicle, but it also can not be used in bad weather and can have interference issues if there are other strong light sources present.

Why Does Tesla Use LiDAR?

A LiDAR rig mounted on a Tesla Semi for testing FSD.
A LiDAR rig mounted on a Tesla Semi for testing FSD.
Not a Tesla App

At Autonomy Day in 2019, Elon Musk mentioned that LiDAR isn’t the solution for self-driving cars – it's just a crutch. Thus, Tesla hasn’t used LiDAR for any production self-driving software.

Instead, Tesla uses it exactly how it's described – they use it to gather ground-truth data. This data is then used to feed Tesla’s Full Self Driving system – which helps validate its vision-only system's accuracy. LiDAR provides very accurate measurements to help ensure that FSD’s perception of space is accurate – and is only used by Tesla to ensure that its AI technology which is the brains of FSD is capable of accurately interpreting depth from just visual data.

Tesla’s vision-only system has been seen to be extremely accurate, with Vision-only Autopark being able to park in even narrower and tighter spaces faster than the previous version that relied on ultrasonic sensors.

We’ll likely continue to see Tesla purchase LiDAR systems, as well as use them for validation well into the future.

Tesla's Upcoming Robotaxi Event in August Delayed, According to Bloomberg

By Karan Singh
Sugar Design

In a report from Bloomberg, it is claimed that Tesla will be delaying its much-anticipated 8/8 Robotaxi event by two months to October 2024.

While sources other than Bloomberg haven't confirmed this report, Bloomberg has a positive track record of reporting on financial decisions. We’ll be sure to update the article if there is confirmation on X from Elon Musk or another Tesla senior official.

Tesla’s stock has dropped nearly 8.5% over the day, ending back-to-back gains over the last two weeks. It closed yesterday at $ 241 after hitting a peak of $270 earlier in the day before the news broke.

Why the Delay?

The delay – of approximately two months – has been communicated internally, but not publicly announced just yet. Bloomberg goes on to mention that the design team was told to rework certain elements of the Cybercab, necessitating the delay.

If Bloomberg’s report is correct, it sounds like Tesla’s unveil event will be largely focused on showing off the vehicle, instead of demoing how it will work. Of course, it could still be both, but given past events, Tesla has always shown off the vehicle years before it hits production.

Rimac recently showed off their version of robotaxi vehicle named Verne, and surprisingly, it could almost pass for Tesla’s own robotaxi. A lot of design cues in Rimac’s version are elements we have already seen or expect to see in Tesla’s autonomous taxi.

A recent Tesla patent revealed that Tesla is incorporating a sanitation system into their robotaxi that will be responsible for analyzing and cleaning the vehicle’s interior, although the delay itself is likely tied more to a physical feature rather than software.

Another element we know almost nothing about is how Tesla plans to charge these robotic taxis. Will they rely on the existing charge port and adapt a solution like the robotic charging arm (video below) we saw almost eight years ago, or will wireless charging or a dock finally become realized?

While the delay for Tesla’s event appears to be related to the vehicle’s design itself and not further development of FSD, Tesla is wasting no time in getting FSD working for the upcoming vehicle. Model 3 vehicles have already been spotted with camera locations that resemble a robotaxi.

Is the Delay Accurate?

We expect that this delay might actually be true – Elon Musk usually takes to X within hours of such news breaking if it's false to refute it and hasn’t done so yet.

Tesla has delayed several of their events in the past, and a delay of a couple of months seems plausible. We should hear from Musk himself soon on whether this report is accurate.

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