Elon Musk reportedly demanded cameras over radar in self-driving cars because human eyes don’t rely on radar

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  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes self-driving car tech must be founded on human senses.
  • Musk insisted that Tesla’s self-driving tech use cameras rather than radar technology, the New York Times reported.
  • Many autonomous car makers use a combination of cameras and radar technology to “see” the world.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes that self-driving cars should navigate the world using the same senses that human drivers do.

Since humans use their eyes and intellect to navigate three-dimensional space, so should self-driving cars, according to Musk.

“Humans drive with eyes and biological neural nets,” Musk said in October. “So [it] makes sense that cameras and silicon neural nets are [the] only way to achieve generalized solution to self-driving.”

Moreover, he’s reportedly implementing that philosophy at Tesla.

Musk has repeatedly instructed the company’s Autopilot team, which works on self-driving car tech, to ditch radar and use only cameras instead, the New York Times reported on Monday.

The reason for this approach, Musk said in October, is to focus the data that’s being presented to the car’s computer systems. Tesla’s camera-based “vision” self-driving tech “became so good,” Musk said, that adding radar data was actually giving the system more information than it needed and was negatively impacting the software.

Internally, though, some Tesla engineers disagreed with Musk, according to the Times’ report.

Rather than relying solely on cameras, which could be impacted by weather and light conditions, some Tesla engineers argued that its self-driving tech should include radar, LIDAR (a more advanced form of radar), and other sensing tech.

And up until earlier this year, Tesla’s self-driving system did include radar: Starting this past May, Tesla’s no longer ship with hardware that enables radar sensing.

“Beginning with deliveries in May 2021, Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built for the North American market will no longer be equipped with radar,” Tesla announced earlier this year.

Notably, nearly all self-driving tech from Tesla’s competition — from Audi to Waymo and more — does employ radar, as well as LIDAR and other sensor technology, and it’s commonly used for features like adaptive cruise control in cars from a wide variety of makers.

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