Tesla is making a major change to its driver-assist hardware. In 2021 the company announced Tesla Vision, a new hardware suite for the Model 3 and Model Y that ditched radar in favor of a camera-only setup.
Beginning with May 2021 deliveries, Model 3 and Model Y electric cars built for the North American market no longer were equipped with radar, Tesla said in an announcement on its website. Customers who ordered a Model 3 or Model Y before May 2021 were notified of the change through their Tesla accounts prior to delivery, the automaker said.
Tesla made the same shift and dropped the radar hardware on the Model S and Model X as of mid-February 2022 in the North American market.
Vehicles for markets outside North America will retain radar "until we determine the appropriate time to transition those vehicles to Tesla Vision," the automaker said.
Vehicles with Tesla Vision will rely on "camera vision and neural-net processing to deliver Autopilot, Full-Self Driving, and certain active safety features," Tesla said. These features have relied on a combination of radar and cameras up to this point.
Tesla Model Y
Initially, though, some features will be limited or deactivated as Tesla transitions to the new setup. Autosteer is limited to 80 mph, with a longer limited following distance, while Smart Summon and Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance "may be disabled at delivery," Tesla said.
These features will be restored "in the coming weeks" via over-the-air software updates, Tesla noted, adding that all other driver-assist features should function normally at the time of delivery.
This is a puzzling move for Tesla, which has struggled to deliver on CEO Elon Musk's promises of autonomous driving with its existing sensor suite. In 2016, Musk said computing advances would eventually allow existing Tesla electric cars to drive themselves without adding sensors. He's repeated that claim multiple times over the years, saying in 2019 that autonomous driving would be achieved by 2020.
Yet most other companies believe higher levels of automation require more sensors, not less. Musk has long dismissed lidar, but Lucid Motors has made it a part of the DreamDrive system for its Model S-rivaling Air luxury sedan, while Volvo has said it will begin integrating lidar in 2022 to support more advanced driver aids.
Now, Tesla seems to think autonomous driving can be achieved not only without lidar but also without radar.
— Interactive Content Manager Joel Feder contributed to this report.