Tesla told the FCC that the company plans to install a new type of radar in its cars starting next month, Electrek reports. The move raises additional concerns that its hardware suite may need to be updated to deliver the promised self-driving capabilities.
Since 2016, Tesla has been claiming that all of its future vehicles will have "all the hardware needed" to enable autonomous driving through future software updates. Tesla believes that the best way to achieve autonomous driving is to use the camera as the only sensor. The logic is that the road is designed for humans to operate the car through vision (the eyes) and biological neural networks (the brain). The best way to replicate this scenario is through cameras instead of eyes and through neural networks running on computers instead of brains.
Tesla eliminated radar from its vehicles last year and ultrasonic sensors earlier this year.
Earlier this year, Tesla made a surprising application to the Federal Communications Commission to use new radar on its vehicles. The FCC had granted Tesla confidential treatment so that details of the new radar would not be released. These confidentiality periods are typically six months and expire tomorrow, but Tesla has applied for an extension.
In the application, Tesla also confirmed that the company plans to start selling the new radar "in mid-January".
TOPCARS has learned that Tesla CEO Elon Musk said after Tesla stopped using its radar last June that a pure vision would be a higher level of safety than vision + radar, and that vision has gotten very good.
However, Musk also said that Tesla might still use radar if it had a "very high-resolution radar," saying, "A very high-resolution radar would be better than pure vision, but such a radar doesn't exist. I mean vision with a high-resolution radar would be better than pure vision."
It looks like what Musk mentioned last year could happen, as Tesla is preparing to install a more advanced radar in its vehicles and possibly a whole new sensor suite in the new Model 3 prototypes.
This has raised concerns, however, that with the current hardware in the vehicles, Tesla may not be able to achieve its promised self-driving capabilities. It is possible that Tesla will introduce a new set of Autopilot hardware next month that will simply improve its performance, while Tesla still plans to offer Autopilot on its current hardware.