Tesla caused a stir when it announced in 2021 that it will move away from radar technology for its so-called Autopilot driver assistance system and solely rely on cameras for vehicles using “Tesla Vision.”
However, vehicles manufactured before the implementation of this new system still have radar units installed, but now it seems that Tesla is quietly disconnecting them during routine service appointments, forcing pre-2021 cars to use the vision-based Autopilot instead of the radar-based system.
According to a report from The Drive, several eagle-eyed forum users noticed a no-cost line item added to their service estimates, which must be approved before a Tesla Service Center performs work on a customer car.
It’s worth noting that Tesla isn’t removing the actual radar units from the vehicle, it’s only disconnecting them and capping off the end of the plugs, as per the official service bulletin that has been shared in a Reddit comment.
The Drive writes that some owners have tried to remove the line from the service quote, but it was automatically added back, while others have had success by manually asking the service center not to disable the radar sensor. However, Tesla warned them that “a future over-the-air update is going to disable the sensor anyway.”
Moreover, the company’s service technicians have informed some owners that their vehicles haven’t been using the radar for over three months after it was disabled by an OTA software update, which seems to be in line with an archived version of the Transitioning to Tesla Vision help page which says that all Model S and Model X vehicles made for the North American market have used vision-only systems since February 2022.
2021 Tesla Model X Autopilot
According to the source, one poster on the Tesla Motors Club forum says that the radar unit is being disconnected because it’s draining the battery without being useful. The sensor has also been prone to water ingress problems that have resulted in the complete replacement of the units.
In any case, it looks like the radar sensor is only being disconnected from vehicles that are equipped with the necessary hardware to use Tesla Vision, while older vehicles without the upgraded Autopilot cameras and computers are unaffected by the change. However, some owners who paid to upgrade their vehicles’ hardware have reportedly also had their radar units unplugged, which they feel is an unfair practice.
Compared to radar-based Autopilot, the vision-based system can’t enable cruise control over 85 miles per hour and the following distance is bigger (from about one car’s length to two).
It remains to be seen how this whole procedure will pan out for Tesla, but we’d like to know what you think, so please head over to the comments section below to give us your thoughts.