Has Tesla Quietly Solved Autonomous Driving?

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Written by John O'Connor

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John O'Connor

John O'Connor is the Founder of LeafScore and also the site's editor.

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Could a routine disclosure in the Tesla app be a sign of major advancements in the company’s full self driving technology?

Tesla model s parked in CA
A fleet of Teslas parked at a home in La Jolla, CA.

To follow along with the march towards fully autonomous vehicles, which will be a coup for the automotive industry and a win for the planet, we ordered a Tesla Model Performance as our LeafScore “test Tesla.”

The Model 3 order with Full Self Driving was placed on June 21, 2024.

The next day, on the 22nd, we received a notice in the Tesla app that our order had changed and asking for approval to continue with delivery.

Tesla Vision announcement
Your Tesla Model 3 will not include ultrasonic sensors and instead will fully rely on camera vision.

Could this routine disclosure signal the arrival of a new era for the automotive industry?

Many self-driving companies (like Waymo) use ultrasonic sensors and radar as a rudimentary way of mapping the world to gauge position and distance. While effective in certain contexts, Musk has called radar for self-driving “a crutch” and promised to move past it with Tesla Vision, which uses only cameras to position its cars based on machine learning and artificial intelligence.

In 2022, Motor Trend ran a story titled After Claiming Cameras Could Replace Radar, Tesla is Working on Radar Again.

To quote the piece:

Tesla Vision was supposed to create autonomous (or at least semi-autonomous) vehicles that see the world much like we do, but it appears that’s proving to be very difficult to accomplish. Look no further than the many incidents with Tesla vehicles running Autopilot and FSD Beta features failing to detect objects or vehicles ahead, or even, um, fake children.

Motortrend article

The Motor Trend article offers a skeptical take on whether Tesla will ever get to a place where it can deploy Tesla Vision, its radar-free autonomous driving system.

But just two years later, the announcement of Tesla Vision arrived on our iPhone.

Is this a clue that Tesla is much closer to shipping fully autonomous vehicles than many industry insiders currently believe?

With the announcement of the company’s Robotaxi just a few weeks away, the timing of this announcement has our editorial team buzzing.

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