BERKELEY, Calif.,: Tesla Inc said on Tuesday its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles will be equipped with cameras and no radar sensor for semi-automated driving in North America starting this month.
The move came amid growing scrutiny by regulators and media about the safety of what Tesla dubs “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving (FSD)” features, following a series of crashes.
“These will be the first Tesla vehicles to rely on camera vision and neural net processing to deliver Autopilot, Full-Self Driving and certain active safety features,” Tesla said in a statement.
While most companies like Waymo equip autonomous cars with cameras paired with sensors like lidars and radars, Tesla has focused on cameras to detect and analyze objects.
Tesla’s approach helped reduced costs and commercialize its driver assistant features, but experts and other companies have raised safety concerns.
Tesla said the transition to a camera-focused system may result in limitations of some of its driver-assistant features such as lane-centering and parking assistance.
All new Model S and Model X cars, as well as all vehicles built for markets outside North America, will still be equipped with a radar, Tesla said.
Tesla’s driver assistance system, which enables cars to center in lanes and maintain distance between vehicles, consists of eight surround cameras, complemented by a front-facing radar and 12 ultrasonic sensors. A radar sensor uses radio sensors to detect distance from objects.
Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted in April that Tesla was working on an improved “FSD Beta” software with “pure vision, no radar.”
In October, Tesla rolled out a beta version of its FSD system to a limited number of people, enabling cars to navigate on city streets in semi-autonomous mode as well as highways. A wider launch has been delayed.
In March, Tesla told California regulators it might not achieve full self-driving technology by the end of 2021. Tesla is offering a driver assistant, level-2 technology that does not make its cars autonomous.