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After radar, Tesla gets rid of ultrasonic sensors on Model 3 and Model Y, the change coming to Model S/X in 2023

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Tesla yesterday announced that it has removed ultrasonic sensors (USS) on Model 3 and Model Y vehicles produced in or after October 2022. This change is going to transition to the flagship Tesla Model S luxury sedan and Model X SUV in 2023.

In May last year, Tesla started removing forward-facing radar on its entire electric vehicle lineup. After the removal of radar, Tesla felt confident that it is time to remove the 12 ultrasonic sensors from its cars.

The reason for the removal of radar and now ultrasonics from Tesla vehicles is the advancement in Tesla Vision. The automaker has exponentially improved its overall Autopilot AI software based only on pure camera feed for the last one and a half years.

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Ultrasonic sensors on a Tesla vehicle are installed on the front and rear bumpers. We can see in the following diagram taken from the owner’s manual that 6 of these are placed on each front and rear bumper of a Tesla Model Y and Model 3.

Diagram: Suite of 6 front and 6 rear ultrasonic sensors shown on the bumpers of a Tesla Model Y (the same setup applies to a Tesla Model 3 EV). Credit: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

Tesla’s online car configurator has removed sensors from the design of the front and rear bumpers of Model S, 3, X, and Y already. The automaker also claims that the crash safety ratings of a Tesla vehicle will not be affected by the removal of these ultrasonic sensors.

The suite of these ultrasonic sensors not only helped Tesla Autopilot (self-driving) in the past but has also been utilized by features such as Parking Assist, Autopark, Summon, and Smart Summon.

Now, with the removal of these sensors in new production Tesla Model 3/Y vehicles starting October 2022, the software development teams at Tesla need to re-align the above-mentioned features using Tesla Vision alone.

Therefore, Tesla Model 3 and Model Y cars produced and delivered in October will have these features either limited or inactive temporarily.

However, Tesla will gradually restore these features via free over-the-air software updates with the new Tesla Vision technology that is currently being used by Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Beta.

For a short period of time during this transition, Tesla Vision vehicles that are not equipped with USS will be delivered with some features temporarily limited or inactive, including:

– Park Assist: alerts you of surrounding objects when the vehicle is traveling <5 mph.

– Autopark: automatically maneuvers into parallel or perpendicular parking spaces.

– Summon: manually moves your vehicle forward or in reverse via the Tesla app.

– Smart Summon: navigates your vehicle to your location or location of your choice via the Tesla app.

In the near future, once these features achieve performance parity to today’s vehicles, they will be restored via a series of over-the-air software updates. All other available Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self-Driving capability features will be active at delivery, depending on order configuration.

Source: Tesla official announcement on support website.
Features*Equipped
with USS
Not equipped
with USS
Forward Collision Warning
Automatic Emergency Braking
Lane Departure Warning / Avoidance
Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance
Pedal Misapplication Mitigation
Auto High Beam
Auto wiper
Blind Spot Collision Warning Chime
AutoSteer
Auto Lane Changes
Navigate on Autopilot
Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control
Park AssistComing soon
AutoparkComing soon
SummonComing soon
Smart SummonComing soon
Table: List of features available and coming soon with Tesla cars produced without ultrasonic sensors. *Features listed are reflective of availability in North America. Features vary based on region and purchased Autopilot package.
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Diagram: Range of Tesla Autopilot ultrasonic sensors, radar, and cameras. Credit: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc. Source: Elon Musk’s Autopilot 2.0 Conference Call (2016).

Above is an old Tesla Autopilot diagram showing the range covered by each piece of hardware installed for the purpose. Rays from ultrasonic sensors on a Tesla vehicle spread for a max distance of 8 meters. The rest of the component ranges are:

  • Narrow forward camera 250m
  • Main forward camera: 150m
  • Radar (discontinued): 160m
  • Wide forward camera (1 on each side repeater): 60m
  • Rearward-looking side camera (B pillar): 100m
  • Rearview camera: 50m
  • Ultrasonic sensors (discontinued): 8m

Andrej Karpathy, the former Tesla Director of AI was the main visionary behind using the vision-only approach to solve Full Self-Driving at the company. Last year at a virtual conference, he even explained in detail why Tesla took the path to vision-only Autopilot and left behind radar and ultrasonic sensors in the process. Elon Musk has always been severely critical of using Lidar for solving the self-driving algorithm.

The absence of radar and now ultrasonic sensors have not only streamlined Neural Net data for Autopilot/FSD to just video but has also further simplified the car manufacturing process. Without the need of finding 3rd party radar and ultrasonic sensor providers, Tesla will have fewer supply chain issues to cope with as well.

Diagram of how ultrasonic sensors work on the front and rear of a Tesla Model Y or Model 3. Credit: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

Let us know what you think on this topic in the comments section below.

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By Iqtidar Ali

Iqtidar has been writing about Tesla, Elon Musk, and EVs for more than 3 years on XAutoWorld.com, many of his articles have been republished on CleanTechnica and InsideEVs, maintains a healthy relationship with the Tesla community across the Social Media sphere. You can reach him on Twitter @IqtidarAlii

One reply on “After radar, Tesla gets rid of ultrasonic sensors on Model 3 and Model Y, the change coming to Model S/X in 2023”

Will the extremely helpful accurate distance measurement to an object for front-in and back-in parking be compromised by deleting the ultrasonic sensors?

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