2023 Tesla Model 3 Found Detecting Distances Without Ultrasonic Sensors

By Lennon Cihak
Model 3 detected using Tesla Vision in Poland
Model 3 detected using Tesla Vision in Poland

A Tesla Model 3 used for test drives in Poland has been found displaying distances without ultrasonic sensors (USS). The prospective owner who did the test drive of the Model 3 without USS noticed it was detecting distances and snapped a photo. Tesla replaces demo vehicles every three months, which means that this vehicle wouldn't have ultrasonic sensors. The odometer in the photo shows that this vehicle only has 2,800km. The driver also provided the VIN to the vehicle which confirmed it was a 2023 Model 3.

We previously reported on a video shared by Occupy Mars of their salvaged 2018 Tesla Model 3 detecting distances without USS. In the 10.5-minute video, Occupy Mars shows the vehicle displaying distances from objects with its USS and radar sensor unplugged. The Model 3 was running version 2022.28.2, which was released in September 2022.

Occupy Mars’ Model 3 only detected distances while in reverse, despite a large portion of the car having been taken apart. They further tested their findings by covering up the front-facing and B-pillar cameras with tape. Once the cameras were covered, the vehicle immediately stopped displaying distances and arcs from nearby objects.

Tesla Vision May Be Close

Based on Occupy Mars’ video and now this demo vehicle, an update to display distances to close-by objects may be arriving soon.

We don't know what software version this new vehicle was on, but it's unlikely that it was running an internal build. The vehicle may have been on new factory firmware, which Teslas are usually delivered with. Tesla could also have a configuration that enables this new feature, and that may have been enabled on this vehicle.

Will Ultrasonic Sensors Stop Working On Current Vehicles?

We don't know if Tesla will eventually transition vehicles that include USS to its vision system, but that is unlikely to happen soon. Instead, Tesla may continue to use the data from ultrasonic sensors to continue to improve their vision system. If there are any plans to transition to vision only, Tesla will hopefully wait until the new detection is on-par or better than what ultrasonic sensors provide.

When Tesla launched Tesla Vision for vehicles without radar in 2021, it didn't transition vehicles with radar until more than a year later. A similar transition could happen with ultrasonic sensors as Tesla's vision replacement improves.

360-Degree Measurements

If Tesla continues to improve its replacement for USS, Tesla Vision may eventually exceed the capabilities that ultrasonic sensors provide today - at least in some areas. One area where this could happen is with additional coverage around the vehicle. All Teslas, except for the Model X, which also has sensors on its doors, include ultrasonic sensors only in the front and rear of the vehicle. With vision, Tesla can theoretically increase its coverage to a full 360 degrees, letting the vehicle detect and display distances to the side as well.

Update: Tesla has officially started to roll out update 2023.6.9, which has support for vision-based Park Assist. We took a look at its availability and accuracy in several videos.

Tesla Update 2024.20 Lets Matrix Headlights Adapt to Curves, Adds Supercharger Leaderboards and More

By Karan Singh

Tesla has been on a roll with updates recently, and now update 2024.20 was released to employees over the weekend. This update builds on the many features in the Spring Update and adds a few big improvements.

Adaptive Headlights

New updates to Adaptive Headlights are arriving for European cars with matrix headlights. The new update allows the headlights to adapt to curves in the road ahead of you, enabling better illumination. Having the adaptive headlights work for curves is the second major update for matrix headlights. Update 2024.8 added adaptive high-beam support, letting your high beams stay on longer by turning off select LEDs in the headlights.

Update 2024.2 first brought adaptive high beams to the new Model 3, before it was later introduced to older vehicles with matrix headlights. At this time, it’s not clear whether the improvements to headlights around curves will be exclusive to matrix headlights or also support the new Model 3.

How to Tell If You Have Matrix Headlights

How do you know if you have matrix headlights on your Tesla? On the outer edge of the headlight, there will be a large, round projector dome, like in the image below. If there isn’t a dome, those are standard non-matrix headlights.
Another way to tell is to run a stock light show while facing a wall. If the Tesla logo, in letters, pops up, you have matrix headlights.

Matrix headlights have a circular dome projector on the outer edge.
Matrix headlights have a circular dome projector on the outer edge.

For now, North America still does not have adaptive headlight support, mostly due to legislative and testing issues in the United States. The US recently approved adaptive headlights, and a Tesla employee mentioned they’re working on it. Canada has legalized adaptive headlights since 2018, so we see this deployed in North America at some point in the future.

Supercharger Races on Beach Buggy Racing 2

Tesla is still improving its Arcade functionality, with the addition of local leaderboards at Superchargers in Beach Buggy Racing 2. It appears that each individual Supercharger site will have its own leaderboard, which drivers can compete on while their cars charge. Tesla says there will also be special races to compete in this Beach Buggy Racing 2 update.

Tesla owners can plug in and play with a controller, the touchscreen, or their vehicle’s steering wheel. Thanks to steer-by-wire on the Cybertruck, the actual wheels on the truck won’t move like they do on other Tesla models when playing the game.

We continue to hope that future refreshes to the S, 3, X, and Y will eventually receive steer-by-wire as well, as the feature has quite a few unique uses, whether driving or parked.

Autopilot Strikes and Suspension

An updated Autopilot Strike system, similar to the one that is on Tesla’s upcoming FSD V12.4 update, is on 2024.20 as well. At five strikes, users will be suspended from the use of Autopilot like before, but now Tesla will remove a strike for each 7-day period the driver goes without receiving a strike.

FSD 12.4 also improves vision-based monitoring and removes the steering wheel nag, but that’s not in this latest Tesla update, but will likely be added in the future.

Tesla tends to release new Autopilot features in their FSD updates before releasing them to the wider public for regular Autopilot use.

Hot Weather Improvements

The last set of user-end improvements coming in 2024.20 will be related to hot weather, the opposite of 2024.2.6’s cold weather update. This set of changes intends to improve AUTO mode HVAC performance in hot weather, helping to cool down the cabin faster, while also maintaining comfort at lower noise levels.

There have been several updates in the last six months to Tesla’s HVAC systems, all helping to deliver a quieter, more comfortable experience, with one of the last major ones introducing cool-down or warm-up periods before blowing air into the car cabin.

Tesla Software in China Shows 'Employee FSD Beta Program' as Tesla Prepares for Launch

By Karan Singh

Chris Zeng, a Chinese Tesla content creator on X, recently posted an image with Tesla’s Spring Update – 2024.14, with the words “Employee FSD Beta Program: Registered.”

He also confirmed that although this text appears in the vehicle, there are no actual FSD features enabled yet.

FSD Beta Coming to China

Recently, Tesla began to offer Enhanced Autopilot subscriptions in China, and Chinese corporate giant Baidu announced that it will be providing enhanced 3D mapping for Tesla vehicles as well.

On a recent trip to China, Elon Musk spoke with Premier Li Qiang on the rollout of FSD to China. Later follow-ups said that “it may be possible [for FSD to arrive in China] very soon”.

FSD Shadow Mode

Tesla’s cars can operate FSD in Shadow Mode – which means that the vehicle is running FSD in the background without any real output except analytics. This is a common software practice that lets software engineers compare the process they’re testing against an existing known output and compare the results. In this case, Tesla compares what FSD would do to what the driver does, and any discrepancies are reported back to be analyzed.

With this information, we could guess that FSD has been operating in Shadow Mode in China for a while, and this new Employee FSD Beta Program will be the beginning of employee testing in China, providing even more data for the end-to-end process that is FSD V12.

FSD Beta, not Supervised FSD

Most interestingly, the photo refers to “FSD Beta” instead of “Supervised,” which Tesla started using with FSD 12.3.3 in March 2024. This could imply that FSD in China isn’t ready for a “Supervised” variant, and it’s considered to be in more of a testing stage.

In the photo, we can also see that it says “Wave 1,” which is what Tesla calls the group of employees who receive “pre-release” Tesla updates on their personal vehicles. Wave 1 serves as a final test for software before its released to the public. In most cases, the software is rolled out publicly within a couple of weeks, however, there have been times when bugs are found and Tesla releases revision before a public release.

Release Date

Prior to larger releases here in North America, we generally see Tesla ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) testing and verification vehicles on the roads, which have not yet been spotted in China.

Whether these vehicles will be needed in China is up for debate, but once FSD features begin rolling out to employees, we should get a better idea of a public release in China.

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