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Tesla Dumps Radar in Lower-Cost Models

By Lou Whiteman - May 26, 2021 at 11:51AM

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The company's Autopilot driver-assist system will soon rely solely on cameras.

Tesla (TSLA -2.62%) is dumping radar for driver assistance in its lower-priced vehicles, instead putting all of its focus on camera-based technologies to power Autopilot features including lane control and adaptive cruise control.

The electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer said in a Tuesday blog post that beginning this month, Model 3 sedans and Model Y SUVs built for the North American market will no longer be equipped with radar. CEO Elon Musk telegraphed the change in a March 12 tweet, saying the company is moving toward a "pure vision" approach for Autopilot. 

A Tesla Model Y outside of a city.

A Tesla Model Y. Image source: Tesla.

Tesla has long been at odds with much of the auto industry over the need for radar and related lidar systems. The technology, which provides measurements of distance to help guide automated driving, is relatively expensive and requires sophisticated processing power on vehicles to manage the data in real time. Musk in the past has called lidar "a crutch."

But Tesla is not abandoning radar entirely. All new Model S and Model X vehicles, which tend to be higher priced, and vehicles built for markets outside of North America will continue to come equipped with radar and will have radar-supported Autopilot functions.

The company said that for now, it is focused on its "higher volume vehicles" but intends to transition all models to the new system, which it calls Tesla Vision, over time. "Transitioning them to Tesla Vision first allows us to analyze a large volume of real-world data in a short amount of time, which ultimately speeds up the rollout of features based on Tesla Vision," the company said.

Lou Whiteman has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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