Tesla Puts Full Self-Driving “Beta” Capability In Hands of Select Few

After an evening tweet on October 20 promising “the FSD beta rollout tonight,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears to have followed through. The automaker’s long-promised “Full Self-Driving” feature, which is purportedly a fully autonomous system, is entering “beta” testing – apparently with a select group of real-world Tesla owners.

The layout of the tests is, to put it mildly, unusual. Other companies working on self-driving cars typically use paid and trained staff or even engineers to pilot their vehicles while testing in real streets, people who can monitor procedures and intervene to prevent accidents. (It is famous that such an Uber monitor / driver was involved in such an accident; the tragic results made national news and Uber stopped its stand-alone tests in Arizona as a result.) So while the test rollout “will be extremely slow and cautious, as it should be,” and “be limited to a small number of people who are expert and cautious pilots” by Musk (in another tweet), we remain skeptical of the implementation.

This is mainly because the full scope of the Full Self-Driving beta (FSD beta, for the hip crowd) is unclear. We made inquiries with the company, but Tesla recently cut their PR team, making it difficult to get answers, even basic inquiries. This means that other than Elon’s tweets, there is no public statement on the extent of the FSD beta’s capabilities, or on any restrictions, guidelines, or security protocols given to testers. beta on how to monitor the system while it is running. . A screenshot of the explanation of the feature on a Twitter user’s Tesla on-board display doesn’t do much to clarify:

Perhaps FSD’s beta configuration is just a slight extension of the current adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping system of the autopilot, which recently rolled out traffic light detection for extended use on autopilot. surface streets; or maybe beta testing is for something closer to fully autonomous driving. We just don’t have that information.

Instead, we have a series of YouTube clips and social media videos of these beta testers singing about how cool it is that their Tesla can perform street level moves, like a right turn. from one surface street to another, while traveling through a traffic light. Tesla seems to enjoy this kind of delay in public relations (even though he doesn’t have a formal PR department now), where real-world fans are broadcasting booming news without any pesky reality checks. The rollout of Autopilot, the brand’s existing driver assistance system, was peppered with media created by drivers engaging in all kinds of silly stunts (like getting out of the driver’s seat while the car was in motion. ) to show how capable the system apparently was. was. This led many lay people to believe that Teslas could “behave” even now, before the introduction of FSD. Autopilot is one of the most powerful driver aids, but it is not a stand-alone system, despite its evocative name and reputation.

What is autonomous driving?

It is worth noting the magnitude of this step for Tesla and its FSD system. Currently, Tesla cars and SUVs offer autopilot, a feature that combines adaptive cruise control and an automatic lane-keeping system to take occupants away without driver intervention for extended periods of time. The autopilot can also perform lane changes on demand, taking readings from the Blind Spot Monitoring system to make sure no vehicles are in the adjacent lane.

The Full Self-Driving software works with additional hardware – sensors and the like – that all Teslas have installed for some time to support the automated driving functionality. Tesla buyers can buy FSD today for $ 8,000, with the promise that when FSD rolls out via a software update, they’ll have the functionality for less than Tesla might charge new customers in the future. To that end, Mr. Musk even tweeted the following, promising an upcoming price hike for FSD:

  • Navigate on Autopilot (Beta): Actively guides your car from a freeway access ramp to the exit ramp, including suggesting lane changes, navigating interchanges, automatically activating the turn signal, and taking the correct exit
  • Automatic lane change: Helps move to an adjacent lane on the highway when the autopilot is engaged
  • Automatic park: Helps to automatically park your car parallel or perpendicular, with just one touch
  • Convene: Allows your car to enter and exit a tight space using the mobile app or the key
  • Smart Summon: Your car will navigate more complex environments and parking spaces, maneuvering around objects as needed to find you in a parking lot.
  • Traffic control and stop signs (beta): Identifies stop signs and traffic lights and automatically slows your car to a stop on approach, with your active supervision
  • To come up:
    • Autosteer in the city streets

From the FSD beta videos circulating online and the in-car explanation above, it looks like “Autosteer in the city streets” is in full swing; We also saw Smart Summon and Traffic and Stop Sign Control in action, along with early forms of automatic lane change. While it looks like Tesla has most of the boxes checked for full autonomous driving capability, we have to remind everyone that even Tesla’s website notes that the road ahead will be filled with a lot more testing, more obstacles and, yes, continued driver engagement and attention:

“The currently activated features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous. Activation and use of these features is dependent on reliability far superior to that of human drivers, as demonstrated by billions of miles of experience, as well as regulatory approval, which may take longer in some cases. jurisdictions. As these autonomous driving features evolve, your car will be continuously upgraded through live software updates. “

Or, as the on-screen explains, “Only use Full Autonomous Driving in Limited Beta if you pay constant attention to the road and, and are ready to act immediately, especially in blind turns, intersections and in narrow driving situations. ”He also notes that the system“ can do the wrong thing at the worst time ”.

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