Elon Musk Falls for Worst Analogy Possible in Defense of No Radar Move

Tesla freeway crash 1 photo
Photo: CBS Los Angeles/YouTube screenshot, modified
Tesla's decision to drop the radar for the Model 3 and Model Y seems to be a never-ending source of juicy material. In this case, perhaps a little too juicy and not of the yummy kind.
In case you missed it, there's an ongoing debate about whether Tesla is or isn't right to remove radar from the array of sensors that currently allow its cars to operate semi-autonomously. The company has made it very clear from the start that it plans to rely on vision rather than a live 3D mapping of the environment, hence its decision (that seemed stubborn at the moment, and some still believe it is) to pass on installing a LiDAR from the start.

Now, it looks like the radar has reached the end of its purposeful life for Tesla as all Model 3s and Ys built starting this month will not feature a radar module anymore. According to the company, it has seemingly become redundant, so keeping it in place doesn't make sense anymore.

Obviously, some people are a bit concerned about this, so they are trying to understand how Autopilot will work going forward. One Twitter user wrote his take on how the two systems work and tagged Elon Musk in his comment. "Radar can tell you 'I detect something moving towards us', vision can tell you 'I see that SUV in the lane immediately to our right moving closer to us," he wrote, to which Elon Musk replied with a screen capture from a Reddit post saying its content is "accurate."

The post, written by someone nicknamed YukonBurger, who claims to "work a lot with radar," says it's a wise decision from the EV maker and offers an analogy that should, in theory, make it easier to understand. According to this person, you can compare the car's vision with our eyesight and radar with our sense of smell.

"You can smell how close you are to a butt or you could just use your eyes instead", he says. "And you certainly don't need both, especially when other things smell like butts too." That must have pulled a few chuckles from the audience, but here's the thing: if the point of the analogy was to convince people radar isn't needed, it does a pretty terrible job, and here's why.

Speaking of butts, imagine somebody offered you a turd shaped and painted like a strawberry. If you lack smell and rely strictly on your vision, you're going to take a bite out of it. Sure, due to lacking smell, you won't be able to enjoy its entire range of flavors, but it still wouldn't be an enjoyable experience.

We don't "work a lot with radars" to be able to tell whether the man's assessment is correct or not, but we can pick his analogy apart and throw it back at him if we think it's as good as the strawberry we mentioned earlier. Indeed, Musk should probably pick his Reddit posts more carefully. Or, better yet, have a department in the organization whose job is to explain all these decisions to the public, especially since they can have a very important (possibly even lethal) effect on them.

He doesn't even need to call it "PR" if he has a problem with the concept. If he's the Technoking, these guys could be the King's Messengers, and we would gladly listen to what they have to say and report back to everyone else interested.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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