Teal Linde discusses Tesla
Tesla Inc. is beginning to follow through with Elon Musk’s pivot away from using radar for its driver-assistance system Autopilot, five years after espousing greater use of such sensors following a fatal crash.
The electric-car maker announced on its website Tuesday that Model 3 sedans and Model Y SUVs built for North America will no longer be equipped with radar starting this month. Autopilot will now operate largely using camera vision, and some features will be temporarily disabled due to the transition.
Musk referred to radar sensors as “crutches” Tesla wanted to eliminate during the company’s latest earnings call. In September 2016, the chief executive officer announced Tesla would upgrade Autopilot by enhancing use of radar. Musk told reporters at the time that he believed the improvement would have prevented a crash that occurred months earlier involving a Model S operating on Autopilot with sensors that failed to detect a tractor trailer before a fatal collision involving a former Navy SEAL.
Tesla’s new approach is likely to add to controversy that has surrounded Autopilot for years. While the company said later in 2016 that all its cars from then on would be equipped with the hardware needed to eventually offer full self-driving capability, Tesla continues to tell its customers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. The carmaker has been criticized for still branding a suite of features as “Full Self-Driving Capability” and charging thousands of dollars for the package.
Musk’s description of radar as a crutch also greatly differs from other companies trying to develop autonomous vehicles, including Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo and General Motors Co.-backed Cruise, which have emphasize using redundant sensors in case some fail.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board each have recently launched investigations into fatal crashes involving Teslas in Texas and California. The regulators haven’t determined in either case whether Autopilot was involved.
Tesla shares were little changed shortly after the start of regular trading Wednesday. The stock is down about 14 per cent this year.