Tesla Begins Offering Camera-Only Pure Vision Autopilot

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Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

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, Automotive Editor - May 28, 2021

So far, the majority of semi-autonomous systems on the market rely on both radar and cameras to operate. Tesla, an automaker that continually chooses to do things its own way, is taking another approach with its suite of advanced features. Instead of radar, the electric automaker stated that it would drop its radar sensors and move to a camera-focused system, which it’s calling Pure Vision. The Tesla Model 3 and Model Y will be the first two EVs to make the switch and will no longer be built with radar systems.

We haven’t seen a radar-less autonomous system before. Current companies and automakers use LiDAR and radar in addition to cameras. Tesla believes its new camera-based Tesla Vision technology for its suite of driver-assist features will be necessary if it wants to come out with its Full Self-Driving feature.

“Pure vision Autopilot is now rolling out in North America. There will be an update of this production release in 2 weeks, then FSD beta V9.0 (also pure vision) a week late. FSD subscription will be enabled around the same time,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a tweet.

Tesla Model 3

As with Tesla’s other updates and introduction of features, owners will be beta testers as the brand looks to consistently come out with improvements via software updates. Unfortunately, new Model 3 and Model Y owners will be getting a car with limited Tesla Vision features. Smart Summon and Autosteer are two of the main features that could be affected by the switch to cameras. Other Autopilot and Full Self-Driving beta functions will be accessible. Over time, Tesla will be collecting data from new drivers. That data will be used to restore features in their entirety. It’s important to note that the Model S and Model X will continue to use Tesla’s old radar system.

Tesla’s move to a camera-based system was not expected. Musk has long voiced his anger toward LiDAR because of all the extra hardware it requires, but it's long been the go-to option for companies looking into autonomous vehicles when paired with radar and cameras. The issue with cameras, and drivers that have a vehicle with a rearview camera or a surround-view camera can attest to this, is that they offer substandard visibility in poor weather conditions. Companies also use a combination as a sort of fail-safe, in case one system goes down.

Semi-autonomous vehicles with radar use radio waves to scan the surrounding area of a vehicle. A camera-based system replaces radar with cameras that act as a vehicle’s eyes to see its surroundings. Since no other company has voiced any interest in using a camera-based system, it’s difficult to say if it’s better or more reliable than LiDAR and radar.

Currently, Tesla offers its Full Self-Driving system as part of a $10,000 option. That’s going to change shortly, as the automaker has plans to introduce a subscription model to give consumers a more affordable way to try out the system before forking over a ton of money to buy it outright.

Explore the current Tesla lineup »

, Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

Follow On: Twitter

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