First World problem solved – enter automatic windshield wipers in Tesla!

As reported in this thread on TMC (Tesla Motors Club) forum, there is a new update being pushed to the fleet that enables automatic wipers on Tesla Models S and X with Autopilot hardware 2.x. Cars with AP 1.0 already had that feature (using rain sensor, just like many other higher-end cars). The difference is that the newer Tesla cars don’t have a dedicated sensor anymore. Instead, the car was supposed to use some of the cameras that the car is equipped with.Β The feature has been long promised by the automaker. So much so that it has became a number two complain on the list by the unsatisfied Tesla owners feeling cheated and lied to by this omission. Number one would have to be the promise of Autopilot and Full Self Driving (FSD) capabilities, but I guess it depends on whom you ask in particular. I know, First World Problems from the people that already own and drive the best car on the planet ;).

I think there were numerous valid reasons for the delay. Not an insignificant one being the parting of the ways between Tesla and Mobileye, the latter of which was responsible for most of the developments around autonomous driving until then. Assembling a new team and starting to develop your own know-how in a discipline which is not exactly as old as bread baking takes time. Creating the software algorithms that would allow for the cameras to detect precipitation without interfering with the rest of the functionality designed around EAP/FSD poses a great challenge and most likely was not on a priority list, either.

The feature is available in software release 2017.50.3 as a beta. As far as I know, it is also the industry-first implementation that uses cameras and neural network bits instead of traditional sensors. There’s a number of companies holding patents or having technology around vision-based rain sensing, but seems that Tesla is the first to actually implement it!

How does it work? Is it better than the systems in other cars currently on the market? Is it capable to replace human intervention with manual adjustments of sensitivity/speed? I will be happy to report as soon as my car gets the update!

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2 thoughts on “First World problem solved – enter automatic windshield wipers in Tesla!

  1. It is great They managed to do all that without rain sensor. On the other hand – what made them do that? It would be better in my opinion to use both – standard rain sensor and cameras at the same time. Why?
    My car automatic wipers cannot do the job when a rain is already on the screen but it doesn’t fall anymore. It happens a lot when rain is not intensive and it doesn’t hit the sensor or rain falls and stops and falls again… It also has problem with sensing very small drops of water. If only my car could really see what’s on / in front of my windscreen… πŸ˜‰
    I understand that saving $1 on rain sensor makes a huge difference in total production cost of a car. But I doubt this savings allow to develop camera based rain sensor. Someone must be first. That’s true. But it is a shame that car as modern as Tesla S and as expensive as Tesla S doesn’t offer what Opel Astra in 2004 did. Hope it would as soon as this update is out!

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  2. I guess they do it because they can. This has been a mantra of Elon for a while (even more clear to me after reading his biography at last). Constantly challenging status quo and doing things which other see as crazy or impossible.

    The benefit is that once they develop the code they can reuse it for future iterations of the cars. Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal is to make the car autonomous. If the cameras have obstructed field of view, they won’t be able to work efficiently. The rain sensor based wipers (from my experience) work OK-ish, they are not perfect. This, paired up with lessons learned from neural network (people will be adjusting the stalk manually when they find the wipers not working according to expectations) will improve the algorithms to be as good as needed. That is why the feature is labelled as “beta” for now (like most of the EAP/FSD features in the car πŸ™‚

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