Tesla recently announced they were removing ultrasonic sensors (USS) from their vehicles as part of their shift to Tesla Vision and relying on the on-board cameras for its safety and driver-assist features.
That change took place in early October, and left many wondering if the car was still going to be able measure distances to nearby objects down to the centimeter (or inch) just by using its cameras, which have some blind spots at the front of the car.
We got our answer fairly soon after, with the owners of cars with no USS reporting measurements were no longer shown on the in-car display.
Now it looks like Tesla has reinstated distance measurements with the latest 2022.40.4 software update, which was first released yesterday.
According to hacker @greentheonly, who regularly does deep dives into Tesla source code, the update activates distance measurements using Autopilot for cars not equipped with USS.
UPDATE: Based on reports from owners of cars without USS and on 2022.40.4, it appears as though the code is still dormant and has not been activated yet.
2022.40.4 merges no-ultrasonics code into "mainline", now receives parking distances from autopilot (where not equipped with proper ultrasonics)
new restraint type for model Y in NA: FSAB (w/e that is)
new wiper motor with firmware update capability
All season GoodYear 21" tires
— green (@greentheonly) November 2, 2022
The update is still very new and as a result hasn’t been deployed to a large portion of the fleet, so there have so far been no reports from owners without USS on how the new measurements perform and how accurate they are.
Green says that based on what he can tell from the code it appears as though the distance estimates are “created to mimic the actual uss sensor including the locations: front-middle, front-right, front-middle-right and so on.”
As noted above, there is still an area in front of the car that the existing cameras can’t see, roughly illustrated in the image below, also from Green.
With this blind spot it will be interesting to see how Tesla is able to measure distances to objects that it cannot see.
The speculation is that those objects were at some point in the field of the view of the camera, so Tesla will use that “memory” to know the location of the object, and then use that as a reference point to measure the distance as the car gets closer.
We will hopefully start seeing reports from owners with USS soon as the update rolls out to more vehicles. If you have a Model 3 or Model Y with no USS and have the 2022.40.4 update, let us know in the comments below or reach out to us at email@example.com.