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Tesla Seen Testing Upcoming Robotaxi in Plain Sight Disguised as a Model 3 Near Its Engineering HQ – The Vehicle is Devoid of Sideview Mirrors & Features Novel Camera Placement

Images taken near Tesla’s engineering headquarters in Palo Alto, California, show Tesla testing the Robotaxi disguised as a Model 3. The new vehicle does not have side-view mirrors and features novel camera placements, including behind a side window.

Elon Musk has bet Tesla’s future on the success of the company’s upcoming next-generation vehicle, the “Robotaxi.”

As the name suggests, the robotaxi will be a purpose-built, fully self-driving vehicle designed from the ground up for use in Tesla’s upcoming driverless ride-hailing service.

The main design goal for the Robotaxi is to minimize the cost per mile of a ride-hailing trip. The full self-driving capability bit will eliminate the system's biggest cost, which is the human driver.

However, in addition to the self-driving tech, Tesla is working on several vehicle manufacturing and design breakthroughs that will further decrease the cost of production for the Robotaxi.

Tesla has outlined some of the robotaxi’s technological advancements in an exhaustive three-and-a-half-hour investor presentation. You can read more about Tesla’s 3rd generation vehicle platform and ground-breaking “unboxed” manufacturing technique here.

Related News: Elon Musk Reveals in the Next Few Days a Major Tesla FSD Breakthrough Will “Improve Miles-Per-Intervention 5-to-10X” – Confirms Cybertruck Will Get an Even Better FSD Version in June

Surprisingly enough, with the next generation Robotaxi, we already know some of the biggest technological breakthroughs that will underpin the vehicle. However, Tesla has kept a very tight lip when it comes to the regular specs and design of the vehicle.

That’s at least until today. Several new images taken near Tesla’s engineering headquarters in Palo Alto, California, reveal details about the upcoming Robotaxi.

For obvious reasons, since the vehicle has not yet been unveiled, Tesla is testing some of the Robotaxi’s features disguised as a refreshed Model 3.

Only a few months ago, Tesla rolled out a major update to the Model 3, which changed more than 50% of the vehicle’s components. Only three weeks ago, Tesla stated that the company’s Fremont, California, plant is still ramping up the refreshed Model 3 production.

In addition, the refreshed Model 3's performance variant was only spotted in China a couple of days ago, and deliveries of the brand-new vehicle are just starting.

This means the brand new Model 3 prototype seen testing near Tesla’s headquarters is not an upcoming update to the Model 3. More likely, Tesla is using the Model 3 to test out Robotaxi features.

The biggest and most apparent change we can see on the recently spotted one-off Model 3 vehicles is the lack of side-view mirrors.

In a driverless Robotaxi future, there will be no driver to utilize the side-view mirrors and the rear-view mirrors, which means the function of these bygone-era car components will no longer be needed.

Elon Musk has previously confirmed that future Tesla vehicles will not have side or rear-view mirrors.

Admittedly, the lack of side view mirrors is not enough to state that the brand new Model 3 seen driving near Tesla’s engineering headquarters is testing Robotaxi tech in disguise. After all, when Tesla first unveils all its vehicles, the EV maker always shows them off without a side view mirror.

However, if you have doubts whether Tesla is testing the upcoming robotaxi disguised as a Model 3, then some of the other changes you will see should change your mind.

In addition to removing the side view mirrors, Tesla is also testing completely new placements for the surrounding autopilot cameras.

A picture of an early Robotaxi prototype shared in Elon Musk’s biography shows that unlike all of Tesla’s vehicle lineup, the Robotaxi is expected to be a two-door, two-seater vehicle.

This means the current layout of Tesla’s autopilot cameras will need to be significantly re-engineered on the Robotaxi to afford the vehicle the same 360-degree view.

The new camera placements in the recently spotted one-of-a-kind Model 3 include a protruding side view camera, a protruding camera on the trunk, and the most interesting camera placement comes behind the rollable rear passenger window. 

You can reasonably argue the placement of the protruding side repeater cameras and the rear camera is not a big deal; however, a camera behind the rollable rear passenger windows all but confirms this is not an update to the Model 3 but a completely new vehicle design.

Besides this, the brand-new Model 3, although likely testing out tech for the upcoming fully autonomous Robotaxi, still appeared to be operated by a driver.

From the pictures, it is not conclusive whether the driver was controlling the car or if the car was operating in self-driving mode; however, it is nonetheless exciting to see the first glimpse of Tesla’s Robotaxi future.

Tesla has scheduled an unveiling event for the Robotaxi on August 8, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted on the upcoming vehicle in the meantime. Until then, visit our site,, regularly for the latest updates.

So, what do you think? Are you surprised to see Tesla testing out Robotaxi features in broad daylight? Also, what other changes can you spot on the one-of-a-kind Model 3? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below by clicking the red “Add new comment” button.

Image: Screenshot from Autofocus YouTube channel

For more information, check out: A U.S. Army Veteran, EV/Tech YouTuber Says – “Tesla is Refusing To Give Me a Replacement Cybertruck After Mine Has Been Broken 4 Times” – “I have 16.8 Million Views Showing Issues With My Cybertruck”

Tinsae Aregay has been following Tesla and the evolution of the EV space daily for several years. He covers everything about Tesla, from the cars to Elon Musk, the energy business, and autonomy. Follow Tinsae on Twitter at @TinsaeAregay for daily Tesla news.