Tesla has started the roll out of its fully functional “Full Self Driving” (FSD) software upgrade, albeit to a very small number of beta testers.
At the company’s Q3 2020 earnings call on Wednesday, CEO Elon Musk shared more details on the roll out, saying Tesla would “see how it goes” and “probably release to more people” in a gradual roll out.
“We are starting very slow and very cautiously because the world is a complex and messy place,” said Musk.
On Tuesday (US time), Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk confirmed via Twitter that the FSD upgrade had begun, saying it would “be extremely slow and cautious, as it should be.”
FSD beta rollout happening tonight. Will be extremely slow & cautious, as it should.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 20, 2020
“Slow and steady wins the race,” said AI researcher at MIT, Lex Fridman, who is known for the work he has done studying Tesla’s Autopilot and autonomous driving systems, on Twitter.
Slow and steady wins the race.
— Lex Fridman (@lexfridman) October 20, 2020
If all goes well, Musk says that FSD will rolled out to customers who paid extra for the fully autonomous package in a wide release by the end of 2020.
Tesla has copped criticism for its portrayal of Full Self Driving as autonomous software, and its base level Autopilot that comes standard with the vehicle. In October, the European safety body Euro NCAP rated Tesla low for driver engagement, saying it did little to keep the driver engaged and gave the impression of being in control.
In Germany in July, a Munich court ruled that the electric vehicle maker had misled drivers by claiming it would deliver Level 5, or fully autonomous, driving by 2019 – something that is not even legal in Germany.
However accoprding to the Washington Post, self-driving is only lightly regulated in the US, where its beta roll out has commenced, and Tesla does not need permissions to do so.
Nor does Tesla receive full payment of FSD packages until all the features are rolled out. In Q2 2020, Tesla was able to realise $US48 million ($A68 million) in deferred profit thanks to the release of the latest feature that has gone to wide release, the ability to recognise, and respond to, traffic lights and stop signs.
FSD functionality consists of a series of feature roll outs Tesla has devlivered in past years, starting with “Navigate on Autopilot” (NoA) for highways, Smart Summon for slow speed car parks, and most recently traffic light and stop sign recognition.
A final piece to Tesla’s FSD puzzle is the ability to navigate round abouts, something that Musk has admitted is not a simple task.
At the company’s Battery Day, Musk said that the development of FSD technology had hit a wall, and required a “fundamental rewrite” to make the next step forward.
Today, Musk outlined how Tesla’s neural net-based approach was helping it become more robust as it identifies more “weird” corner cases that a simulation would not be able to create.
“Having on order of 1 million cars providing feedback especially on strange corner case situations….this is the thing that is really valuable,” Musk said.
Additionally, Tesla’s FSD will have no need for a phone connection or high definition maps, says Musk.
“Even if you are in somewhere you’ve never been before, with no phone connection, the car should still be able to drive,” he said.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.