By Lennon Cihak
Tesla owner and EV mechanic Occupy Mars shared a video of their salvaged 2018 Tesla Model 3 detecting distances without its ultrasonic sensors (USS).
Occupy Mars shared a 10.5-minute video explaining how they discovered this anomaly. Even though the vehicle was running version 2022.28.2, which was released in September 2022, the vehicle managed to measure distances without the use of USS.
Occupy Mars moved the vehicle out of their garage without the front bumper and confirmed that all ultrasonic sensors were disconnected. However, they noticed that their Model 3 was accurately detecting a vehicle next to it and displaying the appropriate distances on the screen. This appears to confirm that Tesla is testing Tesla Vision to detect nearby objects and display distances, but only on vehicles with USS.
Confirming Camera Detection
Interestingly, Occupy Mars’ vehicle only detected the distances while in reverse, although a lot of the car is taken apart, so this could have been due to early software or hardware issues. When pulling up closer to the garage, Occupy Mars noticed the Model 3 was not showing the distance between the car and the garage. Instead, it was detecting objects at the corners of the vehicle. This would make sense given the blindspot in front of the vehicle where cameras can not see.
To confirm that the vehicle was using its cameras to determine distances, Occupy Mars covered the front-facing and B-pillar cameras with tape. Once the vehicle’s cameras were covered, the car immediately stopped displaying the arcs and distances from nearby objects.
Occupy Mars went to step further to rule out radar use and physically unplugged the vehicle’s radar and with the cameras uncovered, the vehicle continued to detect objects and display distances.
Video Showing USS-like Detection Using Vision
The video below by Occupy Mars shows their vehicle detecting distances without utilizing any ultrasonic sensors or radar.
Running Vision in Shadow Mode
What appears to be happening is that Tesla is actively testing and collecting data from vehicles that are equipped with ultrasonic sensors, and it appears they’ve been doing so for several months. Previously, the USS were fully responsible for detecting distances for nearby objects, but it appears Tesla is now using an updated version of Tesla Vision in shadow mode. This lets Tesla run code in the background to assess its accuracy before having the vehicle or driver rely on it. Tesla then uses the vision-detected distances and compares those values to the output of the vehicle’s ultrasonic sensors, letting them assess the new system’s accuracy before releasing it publicly.
The Removal of Ultrasonic Sensors
On October 4th, 2022, Tesla announced that they were removing ultrasonic sensors from their vehicles and beginning the transition into their own proprietary “Tesla Vision.” According to Tesla’s announcement, Model 3 and Model Y vehicles built in October 2022 and beyond no longer included the USS. Later, Tesla removed USS from the Model S and Model X as well.
This came as a bit of a shock to drivers and automotive experts, namely the team from Munro Live. The USS are standard in modern vehicles. They’re used to detect distances in tight spaces to enhance the safety of the vehicle. But Tesla believes they can maintain a similar level of safety and accuracy without the USS, despite some outcry from the Tesla community and experts.
Savings Due to the Removal of Ultrasonic Sensors
Tesla is saving an estimated $114 per vehicle by removing the USS, equating to roughly 100 million dollars per year based on Tesla’s volume, per Munro Live. This effort makes sense as Tesla is revamping its Model 3 to cut costs so prospective buyers can take advantage of the new federal tax credit.
As pointed out in the Munro Live video, there is a three-foot blindspot in the front of the vehicle. Tesla’s rumored solution for the three-foot blindspot is to have the vehicle remember what it sees when driving toward an object. But if the vehicle is parked for an extended period and something is placed in front of it, how will the vehicle know where it’s placed or if it has moved?
Tesla could continue processing camera data while parked as they do in Sentry Mode, but this would cause significant battery usage over time.
Tesla may also just leave out the ability to detect objects in front of the vehicle when the vehicle is first started.
More recently Tesla owner and hacker GreenTheOnly found code of Tesla testing vision-based USS-type detection in update 2022.40, so it’s clear that Tesla plans to address the lack of USS, but it appears the fix is taking longer than expected. Although nothing has been officially communicated by Tesla, we could be close to receiving the long-awaited update that restores USS-type detection.
By Kevin Armstrong
Brand Finance praised Tesla in two separate reports, calling it a sustainability leader and listing the company as the ninth most valuable brand globally. However, Tesla’s CEO did not rank as well in the company’s third report, the Brand Guardianship Index 2023.
As a result, Elon Musk has dropped out of the top 100 CEOs in the Brand Finance report, which measures the reputation and performance of the leaders of the world’s leading brands. This drop is a notable change from last year when Musk was ranked 30th on the list.
Twitter’s Impact on Tesla
However, the report seems much more concerned with Musk’s performance at Twitter than with Tesla. One of the main reasons for this drop in reputation is Musk’s tenure as CEO of Twitter, a role he took on in October 2022. His controversial restructuring of Twitter, which eliminated many positions to refocus the company on profitability, has put the brand under intense criticism from some business journalists and commentators. Musk has been the center of attention for several reasons, and the headlines are usually not kind to the 51-year-old.
The large volume of news stories about high legal fees, congressional hearings, resignations, and the decreasing popularity of Twitter as a social media platform have contributed to a drop in the company’s reputation. Additionally, the reputation of Tesla as a company also dropped due to these controversies, according to the report.
Numerous Tesla investors have been hounding the board of directors to either have Musk more involved with Tesla and less distracted by Twitter or finding a new CEO. Musk sold millions of Tesla shares to acquire Twitter. Since taking over Twitter, Tesla’s stock was in free fall to close 2022, losing 70 percent of its value and closing out its worst quarter on record. However, Tesla stock has recently surged, partly due to a great earnings report. The stock is up almost 50% since the start of the year.
CEOs Must Enhance Brands
Brand guardians must uphold the reputation of the brands they are responsible for and ensure that internal and external stakeholders are confident in the brand executives’ leadership and strategy. Failure to do so can lead to a drop in reputation due to wider public sentiment and media coverage of high-profile executive leaders.
As the case of Twitter and Elon Musk shows, a brand’s reputation is closely tied to its leadership’s reputation. It is essential for brand guardians to be aware of this and take appropriate action to protect and enhance the reputation of their brands.
By Kevin Armstrong
Tesla ranks second as the brand with the highest sustainability perception. Brand Finance, an independent branding and consultation agency, released the Sustainability Perceptions Indexwhich uses several factors to determine the “value of sustainability perceptions to the world’s leading brands.”
It’s hard to imagine a more sustainable brand than Tesla. The mission statement includes the verbiage: accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. This company made electric vehicles a viable form of transportation and has produced more energy than it used. But it may be Tesla’s communication or lack thereof, that cost it first place.
Tesla May be too Humble
The report states, “Despite having sustainability as central to its brand, Tesla’s communication of its sustainability initiatives is relatively limited considering the impact that it has. This is potentially due to a worry that the brand is too defined by sustainability. However, Brand Finance’s research suggests that this concern is unwarranted, and in fact, having a strong sustainability perception will only increase consumer choice, particularly in the luxury auto sector.”
To confuse readers further, Brand Finance gave the top ranking to Amazon. The report ironically states: “This may come as a surprise to some.” Brand Finance explains that despite the “regular criticism about issues as diverse as labor conditions, emissions associated with its supply chains, and the polluting effects of packaging,” there is a perception of sustainability. The report reads, “Regardless of Amazon’s track record, it is clear that consumers worldwide have confidence that Amazon is minimizing its negative impacts, or at least is committed enough for them to continue to use its services.”
Luxury Car Brands Must be Environmentally Friendly
Tesla recently ousted BMW as the top-selling luxury brand. Brand Finance’s report found that consumers are putting a lot of importance on sustainability in luxury automobiles. Volvo discovered the same trend when it announced that it would phase out the production of ICE vehicles. Volvo worked with The Future Laboratory to author a report called The Rise of the Conscious Design.
The report underscores the importance of Volvo, and effectively the entire auto industry, to be more sustainable. The report pointed out, “Once focused specifically on environmental factors, consumers are rapidly developing a more holistic understanding of sustainability and ethics… The rise of conscious design stems from a pressing need to ensure that future products across categories are ethical, sustainable and regenerative. ”
Tesla Should Advertise
Tesla has not spent a dime on traditional advertising; instead, it relies on word-of-mouth and puts so much faith in its product that it made owners practically spokespeople. Although Tesla appears to have done some product placement in the past, such as the Model Y that was offered at the Price is Right. However, more advertising may be necessary now that the rest of the automotive world has realized electric vehicles are here to stay and consumers are demanding the product.
The average consumer must learn about Tesla’s incredible safety record and cutting-edge technology. You can bet every other brand will be buying ads to promote “new features” that Tesla has already done or is significantly more advanced than the competition. There is no reason why Tesla shouldn’t be the top brand globally for sustainability other than an uninformed perception, and that must change.