The feds are watching closely. Very closely.
It has happened. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has remained true to his word. The all-electric carmaker released its Full Self-Driving Beta software to owners this past Friday night via a download button. Federal and state safety officials, including California's Department of Motor Vehicles, are watching things very carefully. FSD Beta, as a reminder, is not a Level 5 autonomous system but rather rated at Level 2, the same as Tesla's Autopilot, a now-standard feature.
Level 2 autonomy still requires drivers to pay attention to the road at all times and to keep their hands on or close to the steering wheel, ready to assume control if necessary. Autopilot is currently under federal investigation due to a number of crashes involving emergency vehicles.
Tesla has since announced it fixed the problem but authorities have not confirmed this. FSD Beta is simply a more premium and advanced Level 2 assist system, and it's not even completed. Additional FSD updates are planned. The technology is not cheap and doesn't come standard on any vehicle, whether it's a fully-loaded Tesla Model S Plaid or a base long-range Model Y. Owners can purchase it upfront for a hefty $10,000 or as a $199 monthly subscription service.
Tesla says FSD will enable its vehicles to automatically change lanes, drive themselves on the highway, maneuver in and out of parking spots without a human behind the wheel, and comes with an Autosteer feature for city driving.
The problem with the latter is that it’s not completed, hence some of the many safety concerns. FSD Beta was initially offered to around 2,000 drivers consisting of Tesla employees and a few private owners. Their task was to test the technology on public roads so that Tesla’s AI experts could fix any bugs. Hopefully, they did their jobs. Musk himself seems to be quite pleased with the results.
Last week, he tweeted that FSD Beta is so good drivers may wrongly think they don’t have to pay attention to their surroundings. Is this a recipe for disaster? We’ll get a better idea in the weeks and months ahead.