Tesla Appears to be Back on Radar for Its Vehicles

Tesla plans to add new radar products to its vehicles in mid-January, according to documents released in the Federal Communications Commission.

The disclosure, which was first reported by Electrek, comes as the company faces scrutiny over the safety  and capabilities of  its standard advanced driver assistance system known as Autopilot and  an  optional $15,000 enhanced product   .  under the brand “Full Self-Driving”. Tesla FSD’s beta software offers some automated driving features, but it’s not an autonomous driving system.

Luxury electric vehicle makers have long claimed to be able to achieve complete autonomy through a “vision-only”  approach that  bypasses other sensors such as lidar and radar in favor of cameras and deep neural networks that quickly process the vehicle’s environment and respond in real time. Tesla CEO Elon Musk previously promised to “complete” fully autonomous driving by the end of this year (he also promised that Tesla would get there every year  for about nine years). He recently admitted that the matter would take longer to resolve.

And perhaps, as other autonomous vehicle technologists say, it still can’t be achieved through cameras alone.

The company began removing radar from its vehicles last May. In October, Tesla recalled 12 of its ultrasonic sensors from Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built for North America, Europe, the Middle East and Taiwan. Ultrasonic sensors measure distance through ultrasonic waves and are used as proximity sensors to support anti-collision safety systems, especially in parking use cases.

Now it seems that the radar is back. It’s not yet clear which model will get the new radar. The type of radar Tesla wants to commercialize next year is the frequency set by the FCC for ADAS use cases, according to Ram Machness, chief business officer at Arbe Robotics, which manufactures ultra-high-resolution 4D imaging radars.

Tesla initially filed with the FCC to use the new radar, described in the filing as a “76-77 GHz Automotive Radar,” in its vehicles in June.

“From the operating frequency (76-77GHz), as well as the mechanical sensor design of Tesla’s FCC presentation, it appears that this radar will be used in ADAS applications,” Steven Hong, vice president and general manager of radar technology at semiconductor company Ambarella, told TechCrunch.

He noted that while the performance of these “edge” radar sensors will be limited, it is a positive development that Tesla wants to add radar to its perception stack for robust, safety-critical performance.

Earlier this year, the FCC had given Tesla covert treatment to keep new radar details private. Late last month, Tesla asked to extend that confidentiality treatment for another 60 days from its expiration date, which is Dec. 7.

The authorization letter to the FCC reads: “… The device will not be marketed until mid-January 2023. In order to avoid unnecessary disclosure and competitive dangers before the launch of our products, we would like to request that the above exhibition be held for another 60 days until 2023-02-07.”

The FCC’s filing shows regulators have granted Tesla’s request for extended confidentiality.