Tesla is wholeheartedly embracing the vision-only approach when it comes to allowing its cars to understand their surroundings. This approach has been applied to its Autopilot self-driving feature, but it will also be employed for the self-parking Autopark feature that will no longer use the traditional ultrasonic sensors like you see on all other cars.
Green, the Tesla hacker who has often given us an inside look into the inner workings of Tesla vehicles, has now put this solely camera-based self-parking to the test and it seems to work very well. He says the car executes the maneuver very well, but it moves really slowly and it also applies steering lock just as slowly, reminding him of the Summon feature, slower than in other vehicles that have similar camera-based systems (and much slower than an experienced driver).
He does highlight one obvious advantage of relying on cameras and not sensors, namely that you can park the vehicle anywhere, without there having to be vehicles around the parking spot. In other words, the vehicle can read the road markings and this is how it understands where to park, instead of relying on the position of vehicles already parked there.
At the same time, when there are no clearly marked parking spots, this system won’t really be of any use.
As Green points out, only the refreshed Model S (and we presume the Model X, whenever that comes out) will get this feature, even though older Teslas (like the one he tested it on) would be compatible too, since they all have exterior cameras in the same positions. And just like other systems that are being incrementally improved, this camera-based Autopark will surely become quicker through subsequent updates.