Tesla plans to add a new radar product to its vehicles in mid-January, according to documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission.
The reveal, which was first reported by Electrek, comes as the company takes a closer look at the safety and capabilities of its standard advanced driver assistance system, known as Autopilot, and optional $15,000 upgraded product called “Full Self-Driving.” Tesla FSD beta software provides some automated driving features, but is not a self-driving system.
The luxury EV maker has long claimed it could achieve full autonomy through a “vision only” approach that eschews other sensors like lidar and radar in favor of cameras and a deep neural network that quickly processes a vehicle’s environment and converts it into reacts in real time. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, previously promised that he would “solve” full self-driving by the end of this year (he has also promised that Tesla would get there every year for about nine years now). He recently admitted that solving the problem will take longer.
And maybe, as every other autonomous vehicle technologist says, it’s not really feasible with cameras alone yet.
The company began removing radar from its vehicles last May. In October, Tesla removed its 12 ultrasonic sensors from Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built for North America, Europe, the Middle East and Taiwan. Ultrasonic sensors measure distance via ultrasonic waves and are used as proximity sensors to support anti-collision safety systems, especially in parking situations.
Now it seems that radar is back. It is not yet clear which models will receive the new radar. The type of radar Tesla plans to bring to market next year is of a frequency designated by the FCC for ADAS use cases, according to Ram Machness, chief business officer at Arbe Robotics, which produces ultra-high-resolution 4D imaging radar.
Tesla originally filed with the FCC to use the new radar — described in the documents as “76-77 GHz Automotive Radar” — in its vehicles in June.
“The operating frequency (76-77 GHz) and mechanical design of the sensor from Tesla’s FCC filing indicate that this radar would be used in ADAS applications,” said Steven Hong, VP and general manager of radar technology at semiconductor company Ambarella. , told businessroundups.org.
He noted that while the performance of this “edge” radar sensor will be limited, it’s a positive development that Tesla is looking to add radar to its sensing stack for safety-critical, rugged performance.
Earlier this year, the FCC had confidentially treated Tesla to keep details of the new radar under wraps. Late last month, Tesla filed to extend that confidentiality treatment for an additional 60 days from the expiration date, which is December 7.
The letter of authorization to the FCC reads: “…this device will not be released to market until mid-January 2023. To avoid unnecessary disclosure and competitive harm prior to the launch of our product, we request that the above exhibits be held for an additional 60 days until 2023-02-07.”
The FCC filings show that the regulator granted Tesla’s request for extended confidentiality.