Tesla Model 3 in Disguise Suggests Ultrasonic Sensors Might Return

Tesla Model 3 in disguise suggests ultrasonic sensors might return 7 photos
Photo: u/the_frog_said via Reddit
Tesla Model 3 Refresh prototype spotted with intriguing front modificationsTesla Model 3 Refresh prototype spotted with intriguing front modificationsTesla Model 3 Refresh prototype spotted with intriguing front modificationsTesla Model 3 Refresh prototype spotted with intriguing front modificationsTesla Model 3 Refresh prototype spotted with intriguing front modificationsTesla Model 3 Refresh prototype spotted with intriguing front modifications
Tesla shocked everyone with the recent price cuts, but the EV maker has more surprises in store for 2023. A new Model 3 prototype with a camouflaged front and rear puzzled the Reddit community. The car with manufacturer number plates appears to feature ultrasonic sensors at the back, although the image is too blurry to know for sure.
Tesla removed important hardware from its vehicles in 2021, starting with radar sensors when it announced that Tesla Vision would take over for Autopilot and FSD duties. The change came with limitations for Tesla’s driver assist features, like a maximum speed of 130 kph (80 mph) and a longer following distance for the steering assist feature. The limitations were later eliminated as the software improved at using cameras’ video streams to map the surroundings.

Nevertheless, as good as Tesla Vision might be, there are situations where cameras cannot see everything. Ultrasonic sensors in the front and rear bumpers detect obstacles closer to the ground, which are impossible to see using Tesla cameras alone. Removing them was a petty move from Tesla, with the sole purpose being to slash costs and improve margins. Cameras leave huge blind spots in the front and rear of the car.

Tesla might try to avoid this by using clever software algorithms to memorize objects when they are visible and project them when they are hidden, as human memory does. This intention was revealed by white hacker Green (@greentheonly) after scouting Tesla software updates in November. Nevertheless, the calculations needed to compensate for the loss of ultrasonic sensors might add an unwanted burden to the Autopilot computer. That’s why we think Tesla might change course and return the ultrasonic sensors to the cars’ bumpers in the future.

A recently spotted Tesla Model 3 prototype hints at design changes to the car’s front and rear areas. The changes are big enough to prompt Tesla to use black cladding to hide them. It could be a mild design refresh with modifications to the headlights, taillights, and bumpers. These are usually common changes for a mid-life update (aka facelift), although Tesla might have bigger changes up its sleeve.

Reliable information shows that Tesla will soon introduce its Autopilot HW4 sensor suite, with important changes like the return of radar sensors. This is a major departure from the “vision-only” mantra that Tesla repeated ad nauseam throughout the past year and a half. If Tesla is willing to back down on the radar use, why not have a change of heart on the ultrasonic sensors as well? After all, they are much cheaper than the high-definition radar rumored to be installed in future Tesla vehicles.

A new picture of a camouflaged Model 3 prototype was shared on Reddit, showing what appear to be ultrasonic sensors at the rear. The image is blurry, and it was raining when it was taken, which might have added to the confusion. Nevertheless, the position of the dots in the picture is consistent with the ultrasonic sensors’ location on the rear bumper.

More intriguing than the presence of the USS is what we see (or don’t see) while looking through the windows inside of the car. No steering wheel is visible, although you can see almost the entire left half of the dashboard. Unless this is a right-hand-drive vehicle, which we doubt, it means it had a yoke instead of a steering wheel. At the moment, these are just speculations that might or might not prove true. And even if a prototype has a piece of hardware, it’s no guarantee that the production vehicles would have them. We’d love to hear your opinions on this picture.
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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