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Tesla will remove more sensors in the car amid autopilot check

Tesla will remove more sensors in the car amid autopilot check

by Hyunjoo Jin

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Tesla (NASDAQ:) said Tuesday it will remove ultrasonic sensors from its cars starting this month, as it moves forward with using cameras only for safety and driver-assist features.

Tesla cars now have 12 ultrasonic sensors in the front and rear bumpers, and the short-range sound sensors are mainly used in parking and near-object detection applications.

“It’s going to save them a few bucks. I mean, these things are pretty cheap,” said Sam Abu Al Samed, an analyst at Guidehouse Insights, referring to the ultrasonic sensors. “You’ll also give them some chips.”

Last year Tesla began dropping its radar sensors amid a shortage of chips.

CEO Elon Musk said Tesla could achieve complete autonomy using only cameras, but he missed his goals of introducing self-driving taxis that don’t require a driver.

The automaker faces increased regulatory, legal and public scrutiny over its autopilot system after accidents.

Tesla said it will remove Model 3 and Model Y ultrasonic sensors globally over the next few months, followed by the Model S and Model X in 2023.

Tesla noted that the transition will temporarily limit the automatic parking features, but it won’t affect crash safety ratings.

It remains to be seen whether this will be ‘two steps forward and one step back’ or the other way around,” said Raj Rajkumar, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

While self-driving tech companies and automakers use multiple sensors like expensive lidar, Tesla relies solely on cameras and artificial intelligence to help the car learn about the environment.

“The question is how close the cameras can see to the car, which can sometimes be limited,” said Professor Philip Copeman of Carnegie Mellon University.

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The widely followed Tesla researcher known only as “Green” tweeted on Twitter Tuesday that ultrasonic sensors are also being used on autopilot as a “fail-safe” feature to change lanes.

“The impact on the safety of the autopilot is likely to be minimal. Now the safety impact of manual parking can be significant,” he said, adding that parking chimes help people avoid hitting walls and other obstacles.

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