Why Tesla is quietly deactivating safety radars for some owners
Tesla hasn’t been fitting a front-facing radar on its vehicles for a little while now, but owners of cars in the US already fitted with radar are reporting it’s getting deactivated on service visits.
A number of Tesla owners on the Tesla Motors Club website, as reported by The Drive, have noted there’s been an added no-cost job on their service estimates. Tesla customers have to agree to this prior to work commencing on their vehicle.
One person who posted on the Tesla Motors Club website asked Tesla to remove the job from the service estimate, but had it automatically added again afterwards.
Another customer on the Tesla Motors Club asked for the radar deactivation to be removed from the vehicle’s job list and was told by Tesla that while they can take the line off, it’ll be disabled by a future over-the-air update anyway.
A Reddit user posted the service bulletin for disabling of the front-facing radar, which says there are “dummy plugs” installed on the sensor itself and the sensor connector.
This means the radar unit itself is still installed on the vehicle, but just not connected. This contradicts previous reports speculating the radar unit would be physically removed from the vehicle.
At this stage it’s unclear if the disabling of radars on Tesla vehicles is happened in Australia yet, or if it’s limited to North America.
It’s understood Tesla is only disabling the radar units on vehicles that have camera systems capable of using the camera-only Tesla Vision system.
As noted above, Tesla started removing radar from its vehicles in 2021 and began phasing out ultrasonic sensors last year, which will result in some vehicles missing functionality currently supported by the sensors until the camera-based system can be upgraded to compensate.
The company said with the removal of the sensors, it simultaneously launched its “vision-based occupancy network” – previously used only in vehicles with Full Self-Driving Beta – which it claims gives its vehicles high-definition spatial positioning, longer range visibility and the ability to identify and differentiate objects.
CEO Elon Musk told Electrek in June 2021 it stopped using radar but would consider using it again if it was “very high-resolution”.
“The probability of safety will be higher with pure vision than vision+radar, not lower. Vision has become so good that radar actually reduces signal/noise,” Mr Musk said.
“A very high resolution radar would be better than pure vision, but such a radar does not exist. I mean vision with high res radar would be better than pure vision.”
Tesla announced in 2016 all its vehicles going forward would “have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver”, citing the use of eight surround cameras, a forward radar, and 12 ultrasonic sensors.
But Tesla’s pursuit of genuine Level 5 capability has yet to come to fruition – the goal has proved elusive for essentially all companies – and its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems are considered Level 2 or 2+.