Tesla‘s long-awaited ‘Full Self Driving’ feature is now available to a select group of owners in the USA as a beta test. However, the company has issued a series of stark warnings highlighting the technology’s limitations.
On an image shared on Twitter, the update screen notes that: “Full self-driving is early limited access Beta and must be used with additional caution”. It goes on to say the system “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.”
As we’ve seen before, Tesla is trusting members of the public to be responsible and understand what the technology can and can’t do. The trouble is, that doesn’t always happen. The Internet is awash with videos and images of people using Autopilot irresponsibly, and we’ve seen multiple accidents occur when a driver should have taken back control and didn’t. The NHTSA even had to send one company a cease and desist letter for making an ‘Autopilot cheat device‘ that tricks the system into thinking a hand is on the wheel.
An IIHS survey indicated that more people thought it was safe to take their hands off the wheel using Tesla Autopilot than any other driver assistance technology mentioned in the polls. “Manufacturers should consider what message the names of their systems send to people,” IIHS President David Harkey said at the time of the survey’s release. Calling something ‘Full Self Driving’ that still requires constant human supervision, even if it’s in ‘beta’, is understandably going to raise eyebrows.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously called the roll-out of Full Self Driving (or ‘FSD’) as “extremely slow & cautious, as it should [be]”. There are concerns about how the system operates, though. While many manufacturers are betting on Lidar being the solution for autonomous driving in the future, Tesla uses a series of cameras and a form of radar. The hardware for FSD has been fitted to the company’s models for a few years now.
Musk has spoken out against Lidar multiple times, dubbing it “expensive” and “a fool’s errand”. The system, which uses lasers to scan environments in real-time, is said to be better at sensing the shape and depth of objects.
Once enabled, FSD is able to, “make lane changes off highway, select forks to follow your navigation route, navigate around other vehicles and objects, and make left and right turns”. Replying to someone on Twitter, Musk pledged to make the technology available in other countries “As soon as we complete testing & regulators approve.”
The Tesla boss also noted that from Monday 26 October, the price of FSD will go up by $2000.