Tesla’s camera setup on their vehicles has remained largely unchanged since the introduction of the Model 3 in 2017. There are three forward facing cameras, one rear facing camera, two cameras on the b-pillars, and two cameras on the front fenders, referred to as the side repeater cameras.
These camera positions have lead to countless
discussions arguments about whether the setup will be enough to achieve Full Self-Driving. One particular bone of contention is the field of view offered by those side repeater cameras.
According to Tesla’s graphics on their Autopilot page, the side repeaters have a viewing angle that goes towards the rear of the car. It is that angle backwards that leads some to believe the car has a blind spot, like when it cannot see around corners without having to creep too far into an intersection.
In contrast, a human driver can simply lean forward in the seat to get a better view.
It looks like Tesla may be agreeing with those who say the current cameras create a blind spot, as they are currently testing new cameras that have a wider field of view.
The first glimpse of these new cameras was revealed in a presentation last month by Tesla’s Director of Autopilot software, Ashok Elluswamy, who shared several pieces of information from the presentation on Twitter.
In one clip we see a Model 3 attempting a right hand turn, with images showing what the car is seeing from some of its different cameras. Of note is the view from the side repeater camera, which angles slightly towards the front of the car, not the rear as seen above.
Comparing the image above with the image below we can clearly see the field of view is different and angles toward the front of the car.
This field of view is not from the view of the b-pillar camera, which covers much more area toward the front of the car. It is also not the same as the view from the forward cameras.
After seeing an initial report from Not A Tesla App regarding this possible change, we reached out to one of our sources who confirmed that Tesla is planning to make a switch for new side repeater cameras.
Based on what we were told, the cameras have already been installed on test vehicles, and will be part of Hardware 4 (HW4), which we were also told should be talked about during Tesla’s AI Day later this month.
These new cameras may have actually already been spotted. Earlier this week Gregory Collins shared photos of a red Model 3 with manufacturer license plates on Facebook. The car was seen in Red Bluff, California, a little over 3 hours north of Tesla’s Fremont factory with several interesting looking contraptions and sensors around the vehicle.
One in particular stood out, and that was the device sitting on the side repeaters. We believe this to be the new cameras with a stereo camera for validation. According to Wikipedia, a stereo camera “is a type of camera with two or more lenses with a separate image sensor or film frame for each lens,” allowing it “to simulate human binocular vision, and the ability to capture three-dimensional images.” (emphasis added)
There is currently no information on how or if existing owners will be able to upgrade to the new cameras once they are released, or when they will debut along with HW4.
However, if this wider field of view is what is required to achieve Full Self-Driving, Tesla will have to retrofit existing cars, something which could end up proving costly with the large number of vehicles in their global fleet.