Tesla’s fully autonomous Full Self Driving (FSD) software has rolled out to a small number of beta testers in the US, and their reactions are now rolling in on Twitter and Youtube.
It is the latest and most exciting stage of incremental roll outs that have included partial self driving features from navigating onto and off highways, auto lane changing, “summoning” in car parks and most recently responding to traffic lights and stop signs.
Tesla boss Elon Musk’s ultimate plan is to enable a fleet of “robo-taxis”, a destination he has said will vastly increase the value of Tesla electric cars and maximise their use rather than sitting idle in car parks.
As reported by The Driven on Thursday, Musk says this latest rollout will be “extremely slow and cautious, as it should be” a recognition that the future of fully autonomous driving software may hang on whether or not there are any incidents.
Videos posted online appear to show the beta release can now make turns in intersections and navigate roundabouts, operations that the partial FSD features rolled out widely were previously unable to do. At least one video appears to show a vehicle with FSD activated recognising a person on the road and coming to a stop.
The reactions posted online by those who have been chosen for the beta testing program have been of delight and surprise, with testers gushing about the update.
“You mad man,” wrote the Twitter account holder for Tesla Owners Silicon Valley (TOSV), one of those chosen for the beta test.
— Tesla Owners Silicon Valley (@teslaownersSV) October 22, 2020
“Incredible work Tesla!” said another Tweep known as “Brandonee19”.
— Brandonee916 (@brandonee916) October 22, 2020
The visualisation of the beta release shows a much less refined mapping of streets and objects such as cars than the Apple-like interface Tesla owners are familiar with, with cars are boxed, and road edges outlined in red.
“Tesla_Raj” who rode with the TOSV account holder, posted a video on Youtube shortly after the FSD update was rolled out, describing the experience as, “kind of a little scary because we’re not used to that.”
He said the vehicle drove down a road that had no lane markings, and was able to avoid the vehicles parked on the kerb nevertheless.
He said it was a “little freaky”, because it worked so well.
The roll out has also attracted criticsim from the Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, a coalition that includes non-profits and autonomous driving companies like Waymo, Argo, Cruise, and Zoox.
“Public road testing is a serious responsibility and using untrained consumers to validate beta-level software on public roads is dangerous and inconsistent with existing guidance and industry norms,” Ed Niedermeyer, communications director for PAVE was quoted as saying by the
“Moreover, it is extremely important to clarify the line between driver assistance and autonomy. Systems requiring human driver oversight are not self-driving and should not be called self-driving.”
Until you've trusted your life 100% to technology in a fully driverless vehicle, you can't fully appreciate the extent to which the most important currency in the autonomous vehicle business is trust. Literally nothing is more important than developing that trust at every step.
— E.W. Niedermeyer (@Tweetermeyer) October 22, 2020
Tesla’s release notes on the release warn beta testers that while testing the fully functioning FSD features, they must use it with “additional caution”, and not “become complacent”.
“It may do the wrong thing at the worst time, so you must always keep your hands on the wheel and pay extra attention to the road,” the notes say.
Tesla highlights that testers must pay extra attention “especially around blind corners, crossing intersections, and in narrow driving situations”.
Keeping true to his word, Musk has now said that Tesla will raise the price of its Full Self Driving package by $US2,000 to $US10,000 ($A14,100 converted) on Monday (US time), although it was not clear if this would also apply to Australia, where FSD is not being beta tested.
Musk has previously said he thinks that the autonomous driving package will be worth far more than that to Tesla owners who take it up – as much as $US100,000 ($A141,000).
Now that Tesla FSD beta is out in limited release, FSD price (new or upgrade) will go up by ~$2k on Monday
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 22, 2020
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.