Tesla may solve Autopilot cameras fogging and freezing with next Hardware 4 upgrade

Tesla Vision-only driving to get improved cameras (image: Tech & Tesla Sweden/YouTube)

Future Tesla drivers who need Autopilot or FSD to perform better in winter or bad weather will be delighted to hear that Tesla may address the issue of Vision cameras fogging or freezing in the upcoming Hardware 4 upgrade kit. The cameras there, while reduced in number, may have fans and heating elements to prevent lens obstruction in adverse weather conditions.

The next, Hardware 4 (HW4) generation of Tesla’s autonomous driving kit consisting of cameras, sensors, and possibly a high-definition radar, has leaked out of the Gigafactory in Shanghai, and there are significant changes to the current HW3 set. Samsung may be the exclusive provider of the new 5MP cameras whose number, at least in the front, will be reduced from three to two, according to the leaked HW 4 schematics. The increase in resolution from the current 1.2MP and the widened field of view are reportedly behind the reduction in the front camera numbers at self-driving duty. 

The other new developments are that the front camera kits may include fans while the B-pillar cameras will carry a heating element. Combined, these new additions could serve to solve an Achilles heel of the camera-only Tesla Vision autonomous driving system – its challenging performance in bad weather when the camera lenses fog or get covered in sleet or frost – to the frequency of which many a driver in wintry conditions could attest.

The high-definition radar, on the other hand, is a development that may or may not be part of the Hardware 4 kit, as Tesla has moved to a Vision-only solution now, but its exact duties could be announced very soon, possibly by the end of the month, as Tesla’s recent FCC filing suggests.

It is not clear yet which vehicles will be getting the HW4 self-driving kit, but the redesigned Model 3 that will be released later this year, as well as the Cybertruck, are prime candidates. Whether or not there will be a retrofit of sorts for existing vehicles, albeit a paid upgrade like with the move to Hardware 3, remains to be seen. In any case, phrases like “heating function will be evaluated after project feedback” lead to the thought that the next Hardware 4 Autopilot kit is still in its testing and evaluation phases before being placed in a retail vehicle.

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