Tesla reportedly saw an uptick in crashes and mistakes after Elon Musk removed radar from its cars

Elon Musk speaks at the opening of a new Tesla factory.
Tesla saw an uptick in crashes and mistakes after Elon Musk removed radar from the cars, according to a recent report from The Washington Post.Christian Marquardt - Pool/Getty Images
  • Tesla had more crashes and near accidents after it eliminated radar, The Washington Post reported.

  • The NHTSA opened investigations into reports of incidents involving phantom braking and Autopilot.

  • In the past, Elon Musk has spoken out against LiDAR, another type of self-driving sensor.

Since Elon Musk announced that Tesla was doing away with radar sensors on its cars nearly two years ago, the electric-car maker has seen an increase in crashes and near accidents, according to a recent report from The Washington Post.

The publication cited interviews with dozens of former employees, test drivers, and other experts. After the update in 2021, more Teslas running on Autopilot or Full Self-Driving began stopping for imaginary obstacles, misidentifying street signs, and having difficulties identifying emergency vehicles, the Post reported, citing complaints that were filed with regulators.


Some sources told the publication that there was a correlation between the uptick in instances of phantom braking — when a vehicle suddenly stops at random — and the elimination of radar. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is investigating the issue, shows the agency has received hundreds of complaints of phantom braking over the past nine months, the publication said. Last year, over 750 Tesla drivers told the NHTSA their cars had randomly slammed on the brakes while they were driving.

Meanwhile, in 2022 the agency also upgraded its investigation into Autopilot, after over a dozen instances of Teslas crashing into emergency vehicles. The NHTSA has said the driver-assist feature has trouble identifying parked vehicles.

Musk first announced the carmaker would eliminate the use of radars in its cars in 2021. At the time, some engineers were "aghast" and reached out to a former Tesla executive for advice on how to convince Musk not to remove the sensors, the Post reported. Musk has said in the past that he wants Tesla's Full Self-Driving and Autopilot software to mimic human senses by using its cameras — rather than radar — as eyes.

All current Teslas are equipped with the Autopilot driver assist feature. For a one-time payment of $15,000 or monthly charge of $199 per month, owners can also opt for the FSD add-on, which allows a car to recognize stop signs and traffic lights, change lanes, and park. Both features require a licensed driver behind the wheel.

Before 2021, the electric-car maker used radar sensors in addition to cameras to help the vehicles identify obstacles. Now, the company relies on eight cameras and Autopilot labelers to train the car to respond to its environment. Workers at Tesla train the cars to identify and respond to different obstacles by labeling footage that is taken by the car's cameras.

Other self-driving sensors like LiDAR technology are popular with Tesla's self-driving rivals. The vehicles use these sensors to help digitally map out its environment and avoid mistakes, even when its cameras are obscured by external elements like rain, snow, or fog. In the past, Musk has said LiDAR is "doomed" and too costly.

The billionaire has been promising since 2016 that Tesla would soon have a truly autonomous car on the market, but experts are less optimistic.

Earlier this year, experts told Insider's Tim Levin that FSD is far from autonomous. And in February, Tesla issued an over-the-air software update to more than 362,000 cars over an issue with FSD that the NHTSA said could cause the cars to "act unsafe around intersections."

A Tesla spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from Insider. In its voluntary vehicle safety report, the company says its cars "have achieved among the lowest overall probability of injury of any vehicles ever tested by the U.S. government's New Car Assessment Program." In January, the company said Teslas recorded one crash for every 6.26 million miles driven using Autopilot in the third quarter of 2022.

Read The Washington Post's full story on its website.

Read the original article on Business Insider