Automobile autonomy is one of the hottest technology topics ever. Let’s consider this ideal while taking a look at Tesla’s Full Self Driving (Beta) package.
150,000 Tesla owners have reportedly paid for Tesla Full Self Driving (FSD), and at least 60,000 of them have passed the safety test to get access to the beta software suite. (Please respond in the comments section if you have more accurate numbers or other corrections/comments.) Part 1 describes how to get Tesla FSD (Beta) and all the fabulous things that it can do. Part 2 describes its shortcomings and failures.
The Big Caveat!
The big caveat is that this is a beta version of FSD and that the driver must monitor it and be prepared to intervene at any moment.
What Will FSD Do?
For some routes, it will drive you from your current location to any place you enter into the navigation without intervention. For others, it will require a slight intervention or two. For times with high traffic and routes with stop signs and/or rotaries, you will have to intervene at predictable moments. The most common intervention is to give a slight touch on the accelerator to signal the system to go ahead when it is too timid at a rotary or stop sign. The system will then proceed straight ahead or steer the vehicle around the corner automatically and correctly.
What Does It Cost?
If you purchased FSD in 2019, like me, you paid $6,000 (or less if you bought it even earlier). If you purchased FSD recently, you paid $10,000. If you want it now, you must purchase a Tesla plus pay $12,000 for the software suite. Elon Musk says the price will keep going up as FSD gets better.
How Do You Actually Get Access? The Safety Test
It’s not enough to pay $12,000. You have to pass Tesla’s infernal Safety Test as well at this point. After you push the FSD (Beta) download button, you don’t actually get the software. Instead, Tesla installs a safety test on your car. You get a daily score and Tesla computes the average of your daily scores to give you your rating. The main things you get dinged for are: 1) hard braking, 2) hard turning, and 3) close following. You must plan ahead and use regenerative braking to stop your car. If you even touch the brake pedal, you will get dinged. If you go around a curve at more than the speed recommended by the yellow signs, you will get dinged. If you follow too close (I haven’t quantified it), you will get dinged. Every ding will drop you below a perfect score of 100 for the day. The system keeps your scores for 30 days before dropping off the oldest one.
I don’t know how he did it, but my editor Zach Shahan got a perfect score and was in the first group of about 1000 that got access. The next group got access with scores of 99. It took me five weeks to figure out the system completely and I got access when the required score was 98. As far as I know, the 60,000 who have access now had scores of 98 or above . Rumor has it that the required cutoff now or soon will be 97. Please let me know if a score of 97 is now acceptable. I don’t know if Tesla immediately certifies everyone who has a passing grade or waits and passes a new group every so often.
How Do You Beat The Safety Test?
I got a low score when braked hard for a deer that dashed in front of my car. I got a low score when I braked for a red stoplight at the bottom of steep hill. I also got a low score when I passed a car on a two-lane road (close following). I had to wait 30 days for each of those lower scores to drop off. Also, I learned that if you got dinged on a given 10-mile day, you could raise your score by driving another 30–60 miles without another ding.
I had heard that holding you could erase a bad score by rebooting the software by down the two thumbwheels on the steering wheel. It never worked for me. I found too late that to erase a ding/bad score, you have to reboot the software while you are driving. Really? … Maybe you just need to reboot it before you put the car in park.
You Finally Got It, How Do You Keep It?
You are allowed only 5 forced Autopilot disengagements before Tesla will disable the software. FSD (Beta) limits you to 80 mph, if you force a higher speed with the accelerator down, you will get a disengagement. If you don’t keep slight torque on the steering wheel for longer than say 3 minutes, you will get a disengagement. There is a camera just below the mirror watching you. If you look at the screen to your right or look down at your phone for more than ~20 seconds, you will get an audible and visual warning. I assume that if you persist, you will get a disengagement. You will know you had a disengagement because access to FSD will be canceled until you stop the car and put it into park.
When Zach Shahan got FSD (Beta), it was at V10.2. When I first got it, it was a V10.5, and I have since downloaded V10.8 and now V10.10.
What Does FSD (Beta) Do Well? … Improvements Going from V10.5 to V10.10?
- You will get Autosteer now on any road, not just roads with painted lines.
- You will get Autosteer on very tight turns. It will now successfully steer turns marked 15 mph as well as the turns in rotaries.
- You will even get Autosteering on partially snow-covered roads where no lines are visible.
- It is fully automatic and performs very well at stoplights and turn signal lights. It performs much better stopping at stoplights than the old FSD.
- FSD (Beta) will usually put you into the correct turn lane (left, straight, or right).
- With V.10.8 and V10.10, the car no longer brakes for a vehicle crossing your path that will be gone by the time you arrive.
- Your car will now go around a vehicle parked partially in your lane, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian, if it is safe to do so.
- Automatic Speed Control: With regular Smart Cruise Control, your speed would reduce to the speed limit when entering a town. With FSD (Beta), your speed will also automatically increase to the speed limit when leaving a town.
- With FSD (Beta) is first engaged you will need to raise the max speed to the speed limit, but afterwards the max speed will adjust up or down as the speed limit changes.
- With FSD (Beta) engaged, you can usually set the speed for more than 5 mph over the speed limit. This is important because there are frequent rural situations where the map speed limit is, say, 40 mph when it should be 55 mph.
In Part 2 of this article, I will list all of the shortcomings and failures of FSD (Beta) that I have observed.
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