The hidden Tesla Model 3 prototype has been spotted in California ahead of a planned update next year. There have been speculations in the previous week that Tesla is working on a Model 3 facelift for the second half of 2023 (via Electrek). The project is said to be called “Highland.”
Tesla has been integrating its extensive casting technology into Model Y for a few years now, with single large casting parts replacing dozens of pieces in the electric SUV. With the Model Y, Tesla was able to significantly enhance manufacturing efficiency over the Model 3. CEO Elon Musk stated that Tesla will ultimately introduce the same technology to the Model 3, but he did not specify when.
The trouble is that such a Model 3 update would temporarily slow production, which Tesla couldn’t afford while still ramping up Model Y production. However, Model Y manufacturing is already beginning to outnumber Model 3 production, suggesting that it may be a good time for Tesla to upgrade the Model 3 with the technology.
A new Model 3 prototype has been spotted by Twitter user omg_Tesla/Rivian in Santa Cruz, California:
The Model 3 has manufacturer plates, indicating that it is owned by Tesla, and this, combined with the thick camouflage on the front and back of the vehicle, suggests that the company is testing an improved version of the electric sedan.
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The camouflage, which even covers huge areas of the headlamps, makes it difficult to tell much from the photographs. Nonetheless, some Twitter users noticed what appeared to be a camera implanted in the corner of the front right headlight:
It was hardly visible and so unconfirmed, but considering Tesla’s existing self-driving sensor suite has a blind area around the bumper, it would make sense to add a camera around that spot. It could also help with the creeping forward to view traffic before turning into Full Self-Driving, something FSD Beta is currently struggling with.
Tesla has always stated that it would continue to improve its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving hardware, but current owners who purchased vehicles with the expectation that self-driving would be enabled through software updates are concerned that Tesla may discover that a new sensor suite is required to achieve the promise.