If there’s one thing that Tesla loves, it’s hyping up the capabilities of its Autopilot driver assistance system. I mean, hot damn, they love talking about how much safer it is than a human driver and how it’s going to lead to robotaxis in the future and a bunch of other nonsense, and that it’s going to do so without the use of lidar.
The fact is that Autopilot is a relatively feature-rich SAE Level 2 driver assistance system, and that’s it. Of course, that could get worse because, according to a report published on Tuesday by Reuters, the EV manufacturer is now planning on removing more sensors from its vehicles. Specifically the ultrasonic sensors.
Ultrasonic sensors are most commonly used as parking sensors, given their relatively short range. At present, Tesla vehicles have 12 ultrasonic sensors split between the front and rear bumpers, plus a handful of others around the vehicle for object detection. To replace the functionality lost by removing these ultrasonic sensors, Tesla is going to rely once more solely on its cameras.
The reasoning behind the removal of the ultrasonics isn’t totally clear because, as industry expert and analyst Sam Abuelsamid told Reuters, “It’ll save them a few dollars. I mean those things are pretty cheap.”
Tesla’s quest to remove sensors and ignore industry-standard tech like lidar has led to its “Full Self-Driving” platform being anything but. Tesla is lagging way behind industry stalwarts like Waymo in developing SAE Level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicle technology, despite what Tesla boss Elon Musk will tell you on Twitter.
Now, typically in a situation like this, we’d ask Tesla what its reasoning was in a request for an official statement, but because Tesla disbanded its PR department a few years ago, we can’t. Instead, we’ve paid a local hedge witch to commune with the spirits and manifest our questions in Elon’s dreams. We’ll update you if we hear back.