What an irony: right after we published an article about why Tesla could be using LiDARs in a Model Y, the company announced it was getting rid of radars. That is the case, at least for the Model 3 and Model Y units sold in the North American market. The only explanation Tesla provides is that it is making its transition to Tesla Vision, which will “rely on camera vision and neural net processing” – solely on them, apparently.
Tesla did not provide an explanation of the benefits that this measure would bring to its customers. If it was a cost-cutting measure, the prices are still the same after being recently raised by $500. Removing sensors will not make these cars safer as well, so much so that they will be delivered with “some features temporarily limited or inactive.”
Autosteer will be limited to a maximum speed of 75 mph and a longer minimum following distance. Smart Summon (if equipped) and Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance “may be disabled at delivery.” It is not clear why this is a possibility and not a certainty. We guess that the company plans to fix that soon with OTA (over-the-air) updates and does not want to update the website.
Curiously, the Model S and the Model X will still have radars and no changes in their functionalities. From a manufacturing perspective, removing radars from its best-selling vehicles has a negative outcome: it makes them more expensive for the lower volume models.
If it is not cheaper or safer, there must be another explanation for the move. Tesla said it removed radars from its sales leaders because it would allow it to “analyze a large volume of real-world data in a short amount of time.” The white-hat hacker GreenTheOnly puts it in another way.
It is also curious that Tesla only did that in North America. Europe and China would probably question the decision and wonder how effective “Autopilot, Full-Self Driving, and certain active safety features” would be without radars. At least we have another possible explanation for the LiDAR use: to double-down on the bet that only cameras are necessary for autonomous driving.