Tesla Model 3 Test Vehicle Spotted With No Side Mirrors and Weird Camera Setup

Tesla Model 3 test vehicle spotted with no side mirrors and weird camera setup 7 photos
Photo: @MrSaltyP via @niccruzpatane on X
Tesla Model 3 test vehicle spotted with no side mirrors and weird camera setupTesla Model 3 test vehicle spotted with no side mirrors and weird camera setupTesla Model 3 test vehicle spotted with no side mirrors and weird camera setupTesla Model 3 test vehicle spotted with no side mirrors and weird camera setupFranz von Holzhausen and the Tesla robotaxiTesla robotaxi project
A weirdly looking Tesla Model 3 test vehicle was spotted in Palo Alto, California. The car lacked side mirrors and had cameras placed in unusual locations, including the rear windows. This made people think Tesla might be testing a new sensor setup, possibly for an upcoming driverless vehicle based on the Model 3.
Tesla has only talked about full self-driving and robotaxis in the past month, with the company preparing to unveil the latter in August. There's little information about this project, and Tesla doesn't make it easier for us by sharing the details. The little it offered during the first quarter earnings call is more confusing than offering no info.

The Q1 2024 shareholder deck revealed that Tesla will only use its next-generation vehicle architecture and unboxed vehicle manufacturing process for a future driverless vehicle. However, this will happen much later, and it might not be the robotaxi announced for the August 8 unveiling. Until then, Tesla had hinted at mixing the characteristics of the current models (Gen-2 architecture) with those of the next-generation platform. This would allow it to build the new vehicles on existing production lines.

I might be wrong, but this could mean two things. First, we might see current models upgraded with elements from the next-generation platform. These include the 48-volt electrical system, steer-by-wire, Etherloop, and others. The upcoming Model Y refresh could be the first to include these upgrades. Second, the robotaxi that Tesla plans might look more like one of the current models than a completely new vehicle. In this case, we might have already seen the first prototype testing in Palo Alto.

The weird appearance intrigued people because it didn't have side mirrors. This indicates that it might not need them, supposedly because it will use side cameras instead or drive autonomously. Tesla fans consider side mirrors (and sometimes even cabin rearview mirrors) unnecessary, which is why Tesla made them removable on the Cybertruck. Elon Musk shares the same opinion, and in 2023, he said that Tesla vehicles would not have rearview mirrors in the future.

Another detail that made people's imaginations go wild was the unusual camera placement on the test car. The most obvious was the one installed behind the rear window in the car's cabin. The B-pillar camera was also covered with black tape or missing. The side-repeater cameras also looked weird, sticking out more than they should, presumably because they were oriented toward the rear. Finally, a new rear camera was installed above the number plate, where the letter S should've been.

It's unclear what this test setup means, but I can assure you that no Tesla vehicle will have Autopilot cameras in the rear windows. More likely, Tesla installed the cameras on this Model 3 to match locations on a different (possibly smaller) vehicle for calibration purposes. In this case, it's intriguing that there's no LiDAR sensor to offer better calibration data. Whatever the case, Tesla is definitely up to something, and the upcoming robotaxi might be the reason.

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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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