Tesla has been known as a disruptive leader in the automotive industry for a while now. However, its ascent to become the world's most valuable car company took many investors by surprise, as it is the youngest of most leading automakers.
Many experts attribute its rapid rise to the fact that the company is not afraid to innovatively change the types, looks, and tech features of its cars. Now, the automaker has made a surprising move by following the lead of a senior rival in the industry: Subaru.
Tesla is emulating Subaru's driver-assist technology
According to a statement put out by the company recently, Tesla will no longer equip its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles with radar for driver-assist capabilities. The two models, which are the automaker's best-selling vehicles in the United States, will now feature a camera-based Autopilot system. This is surprising considering that the only other automaker who installs such a system on their vehicles is Subaru.
While some autonomous driving experts criticize the move, saying that it is a step away from quality and safety, others laud it and say that Autopilot only needs a few more steps to be great. Those supporting the move point to the awards Subaru has won while relying on a camera-based system for close to a decade, as CNN reported.
Driver assistance systems are a feature that automakers install in their cars to enhance the car's safety capabilities, which is a feature especially used in autonomous vehicles.
The system includes radar for features like adaptive cruise control, which accelerates and decelerates to sync with the movement of the vehicles ahead. Radar is a superb way to assess the speed of other vehicles and gives drivers better visibility during bad weather like snow and rain.
However, Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted that he believes vision has more precision when compared to radar. That is one of the main reasons why the company has decided to double down on a camera-based system, rather than combine it with sensors.
Musk's words echo those which Subaru has used to justify their camera-based driver-assist system over the years. According to the Japan automaker's spokesperson, Todd Hill, there is no need for radar when EyeSight cameras can measure distance.
Stark differences distinguish the two automakers
Subaru and Tesla couldn't be more different. While Subaru focuses on manufacturing family haulers for those in love with the outdoors, Tesla makes its mark with attention-grabbing features, which has made it a darling of pop culture.
Subaru tends to study its market to make practical vehicles, while Tesla is all about braving the uncharted course and introducing new automotive inventions every now and then. Tesla is also widely recognized for its electric vehicles, which are the only type the automaker makes, while Subaru has yet to produce an EV.
Unique approaches to the camera system
While Tesla will be borrowing a leaf from the Subaru driver assistance playbook, it certainly won't be copying the entire chapter. Both companies install the cameras close to the top of the windshield, but those found in Subaru cars are about twice apart from each other.
Subaru says that the distance allows the cameras to sync better together when detecting an object's depth. This is essential because detecting depth allows the system to know when the vehicle ahead is braking. This further triggers the car to engage its driver-assist features like emergency braking.
For Tesla, the cameras are tightly grouped. This could cause problems, as self-driving experts say that the cameras may have limited capabilities to detect depth over long distances. Tesla's three forward-looking cameras are also styled differently, which could further compromise their depth detection capabilities.
However, the automaker still has hopes to improve the Autopilot system to enable full autonomy for their vehicles. For now, it remains to be seen whether the driver assistance changes they have made will help to make America's roads safer for all users.