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Will Tesla Make Camera-Only Cars? | Emergnt Design Labs

Updated on: June 13, 2021

Last week we discussed the recent announcement from Tesla: that they would be changing their autonomous vehicle hardware stack for all new Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, removing radar sensors.

For a whole host of reasons, this makes fully autonomous driving a much more difficult problem to solve. In fact, according to pretty much every other autonomous driving company, it is impossible to do. However, Tesla does have one huge advantage over their competitors that may allow them to figure it out: data. Oil was the gold of the 2000’s and 2010’s but data has become the gold of the 2020’s and beyond, and Tesla has a lot of it. Specifically, they have way more driving data than anyone else.

The secret sauce that enables autonomous driving is artificial intelligence. In particular, this application utilizes artificial neural networks, a type of AI that utilize hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of connected nodes that analyze and parse data to learn and even to write software. As autonomous vehicles drive, they gather data and effectively learn how to drive. Tesla has the tremendous advantage that they are not trying to train their vehicles by using just a few prototypes on the road driving in a few carefully selected localities. Instead, Tesla is able to utilize every single vehicle they have on the road. That is well over a million vehicles driving dozens of miles each and every day. They are even able to use the human drivers of their cars to teach the neural nets how to handle unique and uncommon situations. All of this adds up to well over a billion real-world driving miles worth of data used to train Tesla’s autonomous driving neural networks. For comparison, Waymo, Google’s autonomous driving company, is second in driving miles with a total only in the tens of millions. That is a massive lead that Tesla can utilize to develop autonomous driving algorithms that are far more advanced than their competitors.

It is very possible that autonomous driving is impossible without the use of radar and/or lidar. It is also very possible that fully autonomous driving as we imagine it is impossible altogether. However, if any company is in the position to figure it out, it’s Tesla… at least for now.

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