Tesla will no longer stand apart in the quest for the solution for autonomous driving. The exclusively electric American manufacturer was until then the only one to bet on vision to allow its vehicles to drive in complete autonomy. This bet is based on the idea that the best option for autonomous driving is to get closer to the human driver and bet on the analysis of images provided by cameras rather than specific sensors, such as radars and other LiDARs that lack context. The “Tesla Vision” has been pushed for years by Tesla, under the impetus in particular of its CEO:
Tesla fires up his neurons for his long-term vision
Elon Musk would have pushed against all odds the vision bet at Tesla
Toyota will however join this camp, even if the Japanese giant – world number one or two depending on the year – does not opt for such a radical approach. As reported Reuters, Woven Planet has chosen to use cameras analyzed by an on-board computer to achieve autonomous driving. The car manufacturer’s subsidiary dedicated to this theme uses the same strategy as Tesla, with a system based on artificial intelligence and automated learning that is formed from images captured by cars.
And like Tesla, Toyota quickly realized that the biggest challenge with this approach was the dataset needed to train the model. You need a large number of varied images to cover all the scenarios. The American company can count on its fleet of more than a million vehicles, all of which are equipped with cameras and an internet connection capable of sending data. Its Japanese counterpart does not have such a strike force, at least not yet.
Even if this is not the case today, it seems that Toyota will reproduce the strategy of its competitor until the end, counting on its huge car fleet to carry out this collection. But it will take several years for enough data to be collected by cameras equipped and connected, even for an automotive giant. So in the meantime, Woven Planet continues to work with radars and LiDAR which should provide a faster solution for the needs of “robotaxis”, these fleets of autonomous vehicles that everyone is trying to develop.
On the Tesla side, we are not slowing down on the choice of vision, quite the contrary. Less than a year after the removal of the radar in the United States and Canada, the manufacturer has announced that cars produced for Europe from April will also be without this sensor at the front. Only the eight cameras, as well as the ultrasonic sensors placed on the two bumpers, will remain available for functions related to Autopilot. This choice imposes two initial restrictions: a limit of 130 km/h and the maximum safe distance for all steering assistance functions.
Tesla promises the lifting of these two restrictions with a future update. The advantage of European customers in this area is that vehicles without radar have been driving for almost a year on the other side of the Atlantic and the manufacturer has had time to improve its software, even if there are still some flaws compared to cars with radar. Anyway, if some still doubted this vision bet, Elon Musk’s company persists and signs. Especially since the radars installed on the cars produced until today will not be used forever.
The beta of the FSD, fully autonomous driving promised for several years by Tesla, is thus based only on the Tesla Vision. In North America, the Model 3 and Model Y participating in the test operate without the radar, even if the car is physically equipped with it. There is no reason for Europe to be treated differently and we can therefore imagine that the radar will eventually be deactivated on all the cars of the American manufacturer.
Will this also be the case for those of Toyota? The company still has a long way to go to catch up in the field…