Tesla Auto Wipers: Why They Don't Work and Why There Isn't an Easy Fix

By Karan Singh
Tesla's Auto Wipers have been a pain point for the company
Tesla's Auto Wipers have been a pain point for the company
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Tesla’s Autowipers have been a long-standing issue for customers, as well as Tesla’s engineers. Elon Musk has often mentioned that improvements to Autowipers have been around the corner for years, but they appear to have taken a rain check.

Tesla owners often complain that their wipers are running against a completely dry windshield on a sunny day, or not running at all in light rain. Moderate to heavy rain performance seems to be improved for the most recent update to Auto Wipers.

In our test, we cover the vehicle's windshield with Post-It notes to find out what the vehicle’s cameras can see.

We cover the windshield in Post-It notes
We cover the windshield in Post-It notes
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The Water Problem

Tesla vehicles lack a rain sensor. This is a result of Tesla’s strategy to rely upon Tesla Vision to replace all sensors – which they’ve successfully used most recently to replace the ultrasonic parking sensors (USS) on their vehicles. Tesla believes that vision is the solution to achieving all self-driving capabilities, and this includes the elimination of extraneous sensors such as USS and radar.

Of course, many other vehicles employ simple rain sensors that do function fairly well, and effectively detect the presence of water on the windshield. So, what’s stopping Tesla Vision from doing the same thing?

The problem isn’t Tesla’s detection methods, it’s the view of the windshield Tesla has. Water droplets are small and the three front cameras only capture a small portion of the entire windshield, making it difficult for them to capture and acknowledge the fact that there is water on the windshield that needs to be wiped away. This is in addition to the fact that the cameras are focused further away, to drive and navigate the vehicle effectively, rendering the visuals close to the camera blurry – leaving a rather technical challenge.

Our Test

The car's wide-angle camera
The car's wide-angle camera
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Even Tesla’s front-facing, wide-angle camera can barely see the yellow Post-In notes in our test, let alone the blue Post-It notes spread through the windshield. Tesla’s other front-facing camera, the “main” camera, sees only a trace of the Post-Its along the bottom. In reality, Tesla has no idea what’s on the vehicle's windshield and can only make assumptions based on a few square inches near the top of the windshield. If any rain droplets are on this portion of the windshield, they’ll also be out of focus. If the view of the rain droplets was as clear at the image at the top of this article, Tesla would have perfected auto wipers years ago.

Tesla’s third front-facing camera, the “narrow” view, is only available on hardware 3 and it’s just a zoomed-in version of the main camera, which causes it to miss our Post-It notes completely. With hardware 4, Tesla removed the narrow camera and now determines the narrow view by cropping the main camera, which has a higher resolution in hardware 4.

Water droplets on the windshield
Water droplets on the windshield
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Tesla’s Engineering Magic

Tesla is able to detect drops on the windshield when they land in front of the camera cluster, but again, since the cluster is mounted high above most of the windshield, this can lead to the windshield filling up with water droplets before a wipe is triggered.

They’ve also tried using the vehicle’s other cameras, such as the repeater or B-pillar cameras to detect falling rain – which can help the Autowiper system build confidence that there is water on the windshield. Once it has enough confidence, it triggers a wipe – or changes the wipe modes. However, in reality, due to the focal length of the cameras, it has a difficult time detecting rain droplets because they’re out of focus.
In the image below, taken from Tesla’s wide-angle camera, you can see that the water droplets from the previous image are nearly impossible to detect. On the left, is the windshield with the water droplets, and on the right is the windshield after being wiped. While the droplets cause a slightly blurry image, they’re extremely difficult to see.

How water droplets look to the camera (left) and how a clean windshield looks (right)
How water droplets look to the camera (left) and how a clean windshield looks (right)
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Wiping Away Challenges

The transition to entirely vision has left a considerable challenge for Tesla’s very capable engineering teams. The current Autopilot hardware suite lacks a good view of the windshield itself, but it can detect falling rain. Given that Tesla’s software can detect and display other vehicles using turn signals, it is also possible that they could detect other vehicles using wipers or use other cameras to see rain on the vehicle, such as the B-pillar cameras, to increase the system’s confidence that a wipe is required.

However, these solutions are likely to not be perfect, as they don’t provide an accurate representation of what the driver sees in the windshield, but instead an accurate representation of what the vehicle itself can see.

When engaging FSD on a lightly rainy day, your car may drive perfectly, but you’ll have a windshield full of rain when supervising!

Of course, there are many other reasons to run the windshield wipers beyond simple rain – spray and debris from vehicles in front, water falling from trees or being kicked up by deep puddles, or even snow settling on the windshield. Another challenge is bugs – they leave sticky smears at higher speeds when impacting the windshield, causing spots that can impede either vehicle vision or driver vision.

Future Solutions

Tesla likes to avoid solutions that only solve a single problem – such as adding a rain sensor. It is an additional manufacturing complication, adds additional cost to vehicles, and segments Tesla’s vehicles between model years.

On the other hand, cameras have solved many problems over the years – such as Tesla Vision taking over from the USS system that was present on pre-2022 Tesla vehicles. While it did take until FSD V12 for Autopark to become available to vision-only vehicles, the upgraded Vision-based Autopark is a marked improvement over the older USS solution.

Another such problem has been auto-high beams, which were solved with better oncoming vehicle detection and improved AI – which has led to a feature that is much better than its original implementation. This updated implementation has also led to improvements in the use of Matrix headlights – a feature that for now is only available in Europe and China due to legislative issues in the US.

Tesla is most likely going to be pushing another hardware revision – Hardware 5 – in the coming years. Some of the indications of this include the Cybertruck’s bumper camera – which is also expected to arrive in the Model X and Model S in the future.

There is a chance that Tesla may include a forward-facing interior at some point – to solve the fact that Vision is unable to currently see the windshield. However, Tesla also strongly believes they’ll achieve level 4 or 5 of vehicle autonomy in the future, so they could also be banking on autonomy removing the need for good auto wipers.

A Personal Example

If you get into your Tesla on a rainy day or add some drizzle via a watering jug, you can see how Tesla’s Autowipers will not activate unless water is placed directly in front of the camera cluster. You can also spray some water onto the camera housing and take a seat inside and use the camera preview to view what the cameras can see. It’ll provide you with a blurry, limited view of what the cameras see.

We may see further software improvements, but it may be a difficult engineering problem to solve with the limited camera capabilities that currently exist on hardware 3 and hardware 4 vehicles.

Tesla Aims To Launch Cybertruck in Canada After Transport Canada Makes Exception for Steer-by-Wire

By Karan Singh
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Tesla has confirmed that they’re aiming to launch the Cybertruck in Canada later this year. Transport Canada recently granted Tesla and the Cybertruck a unique exemption to allow steer-by-wire functionality (h/t Sawyer Merritt).

Steer-By-Wire Exemption

We previously reported that the Cybertruck was facing delays due to a steer-by-wire regulatory issue with Transport Canada. On Friday, July 19th, Transport Canada issued a message stating that they would exempt the Cybertruck, for all its models, from part of Canada’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which currently doesn’t permit the usage of steer-by-wire systems.

The period that the exemption begins seems to be immediate – July 19th, 2024, and will last through July 18th, 2029, whereafter regulation should supersede the exemption. In the meantime, Tesla will provide a semi-annual incident report, beginning on January 18th, 2025, including information on steering system malfunctions or failures, as well as corrective measures and customer complaints.

It seems that Transport Canada will also have to be notified every time Cybertruck’s steering software is provided with an OTA update, which could result in some update delays in Canada.

Canadian Cybertruck Soon?

With all this information, it sounds like Tesla is aiming to launch the Cybertruck to Canadian customers sometime relatively soon, as they stated they’re still aiming by the end of the year. There is a good chance that they may begin converting pre-orders to orders once Tesla. Tesla hasn’t commented on which model will be available in Canada, but it wouldn’t surprise us if it’s limited to the Foundation series in Canada in the initial release.

We could expect the first customer Cybertrucks (Roshel Defence and a few private importers notwithstanding), to be on Canadian roads in just a couple of months.

All of Tesla's Current Promotions: Free Paint for Model 3P, 1.99% Financing, Free Seat Layout Options on Model X

By Karan Singh
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Tesla has several promotions running right now in the United States and a couple globally – so we’re here to help you by compiling a list of what’s available, and for how long.

Keep in mind that most promotions on this list are currently only available in the United States – not Canada, Europe, or China. We’re hoping Tesla pushes more promotions out to other markets in future quarters, but it doesn’t look like we’ll see anything else this financial quarter for other markets.

These offers are also not valid for customers purchasing a Foundation-series Cybertruck. We’d expect this to change once Tesla stops offering the Foundation Series next year.

3 Months of Free Supercharging (Global)

This specific promotion pops up often and is available globally. Tesla will offer buyers 3 months of free Supercharging – unlimited Supercharging during those 3 months. That’s quite a deal, especially for those who want to road-trip with their brand-new Tesla!

Teslas are absolutely fantastic to road trip with, and with Supercharger availability and up-time, you’ll almost never be at a loss when trying to find a place to charge. Plus, your vehicle navigation automatically suggests and calculates in for Supercharging stops.

Of note, in the United States specifically, this offer isn’t available to those who choose to do financing. Globally, this offer is for a certain number of free Supercharging kilometers rather than unlimited for three months. In Canada for example, Tesla is offering 5,000 – 10,000 free KM of Supercharging, rather than 3 months. These credits are valid for one year from the date of purchase.

Time period: To qualify for this offer, you must take delivery by August 15th, 2024.

Free FSD Transfer (Global)

As part of a promise made by Elon Musk during the Shareholder Meeting this year, Tesla is offering a free FSD transfer for customers who have purchased FSD (FSD price history) in one of their vehicles and wish to transfer it to a new Tesla.

You’ll move your FSD license from one vehicle to another during the purchase process – and you aren’t required to trade in your older Tesla. The vehicle will simply lose access to FSD, but you can always subscribe to FSD on that vehicle at any point.

For those who have Hardware 2.5 or Hardware 3 vehicles – this could be an excellent opportunity to jump into a Hardware 4 vehicle ahead of the upcoming Hardware Divergence.

Time period: To take advantage of this promo you must take delivery by September 30th, 2024.

1.99% Model Y Financing (U.S. Only)

Tesla is offering – for customers who meet the credit check requirements – 1.99% financing on any variant of the Model Y, presuming you take delivery before September 30th. This is an excellent deal, considering that average financing rates in the US are currently sitting around 5-6%. That’s a huge difference for people interested in upgrading their current vehicle or purchasing another vehicle, as it’ll drastically drop the monthly financing rate. This is probably one of Tesla’s best promotions in terms of a deal for customers, and we’d love to see similar deals rolled out globally!

Time period: The promotional rate is valid for financing terms between 36 to 72 months, and orders need to be placed before August 31, 2024. You must take delivery of your new Tesla by September 30th, 2024

Free Paint for Model 3 Performance & Free Seat Layouts for Model X

This is one of the most unique promotions – and one we haven’t seen Tesla offer before. If you purchase FSD in the United States on a Model 3 Performance or a Model X Long Range AWD, you’ll get certain options for free.

For the Model 3 Performance, with the purchase of FSD, you can add any color option for free, which is up to a $2,000 value.

For the Model X, you’ll be able to select the six-seat or seven-seat interior config instead of the standard five-seats for free. This is a savings of $6,500 or $3,500 respectively.

If you were already thinking about getting the Model X six-seat layout, this essentially brings down the cost of FSD to $1,500.

Since FSD doesn’t count toward the total price of the car regarding the federal rebate, it also means that the Model 3 Performance (with any color) and Model X LR (with 6 or 7 seats) are now also eligible for the $7,500 US Federal EV Rebate.

Overall, an excellent deal – you get FSD, a paint option of your choice for the Model 3, and – if you’re buying the Model X LR – you can grab the six-seat config, which is the best seating option in our opinion.

Time period: Tesla hasn’t provided a timeline for this promo, but it could change at any time.

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