Spy footage of Tesla's next car reveals mysterious sensors we've never seen before

Tesla has been spotted driving prototypes of its next electric car, the Model X SUV, around parts of California for some time now. But a new video posted to YouTube on Tuesday might reveal some new features Tesla is working on for its future cars.

Take a look at this screengrab from the video. We’ve circled the areas of interest in red.

See those arms sticking out of the top and sides of the car? In all likelihood, those are sensors. Their purpose is not clear at the moment, but we’ve reached out to Tesla for more information. We’ll update the story if we learn more.

Here’s a close-up of the sensor near the front of the Model X.

It’s entirely possible these sensors are a more advanced version of Tesla’s autopilot technology, which relies on a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, and 360-degree sonar to navigate traffic, avoid obstacles, obey the rules of the road including road signs and speed limits, and even self-park.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last month he’s been personally testing this autopilot functionality on his Model S sedan, but he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the public rollout to Tesla’s beta testers, since autopilot on that car requires all of those various systems working together, so if one fails, they all fail.

Obstacles aside, however, Musk says it’s Tesla’s goal to produce a fully self-driving car in the near-future. And with competition in that department coming from big autos like Ford and even tech companies like Google and Uber, it’s reasonable to think Tesla is working hard on improving the autopilot functionality for its next line of cars.

“Several years from now, there will be a fail-operational autopilot with redundant sensors and everything that’s needed for someone to literally go to sleep and wake up at their destination,” Musk said at his shareholder meeting last month.

Check out more stills from the spy video to see more of the Model X in action. We first saw this video floating around the Tesla Motors subreddit.

The Model X will be officially unveiled later this year, and the first deliveries will also begin around that time, in the third quarter, the company tells us. But, since Tesla is reportedly running behind schedule, the company will fill existing reservations first; anyone who reserves a Model X right now will have to wait until early 2016 for delivery.

Here’s the full video of the Tesla prototype:

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