Tesla “Full Self-Driving” Starts Rolling Out — What Is It?

October 22nd, 2020 by  

Ten days ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted in response to a CleanTechnica article that Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” suite would start rolling out to a select group of drivers on Tuesday of this week — yesterday, October 20.

Elon tweeted again yesterday that the rollout would indeed begin last night.

In the past few hours, we’ve gotten the first notifications from early beta testers that they’ve got the update.

The fun at this point is simply following those people and checking out how the new FSD features work — so I encourage you to follow those guys on Twitter for screenshots and videos as they share them. As soon as I get the update on my Tesla Model 3, I will certainly do my best to show and explain the tech as well, but that may take weeks or even months, as Elon Musk says they are rolling out the FSD suite very slowly and cautiously to try to be sure it’s as safe as possible.

If you haven’t been following this topic much up till now, I’ll repost below a segment of an article I wrote in March about remaining barriers to 100% self-driving cars. Before that, though, I highly recommend these three pieces for more on this tech and the people behind it:

Regarding the March article I referenced above, below is a segment of that article in which I listed the “big barriers remaining that keep me from using Autopilot all the time.” After sharing those barriers exactly as I wrote them out in March, I’ll list the status of each of them today and how they relate to the update some Tesla owners are beta testing right now.

  1. Getting out of my parking lot. (The car simply won’t navigate itself out of a parking space if not summoned and definitely not out of a parking lot and onto a public road.)
  2. Stopping at red lights and stop signs. (This next Autopilot update will apparently leap over that barrier.)
  3. Turning at intersections where you should turn. (I assume that will not be included in the next update, and I’m concerned about the car’s ability to do this well at this point, but we’ll see.)
  4. Avoiding potholes. (Ugh. This is the #1 reason I turn off Autopilot aside from #2 and #3 above. Since solving #2 and #3 are absolutely mandatory for Full Self Driving, I’m sure those features are in the works, but I haven’t seen confirmation that Tesla is working on the ability to avoid potholes.)
  5. Parking itself. (Aside from getting into a parking lot and navigating to a free space, Autopark is not very reliable — it seldom presents itself as an option — and it freaks me the heck out as soon as the steering wheel starts spinning fast, so I don’t use it.)

So, where are we with each of these matters right now?

  1. Navigating parking lots autonomously: I’m not clear whether this is in the new FSD update, but I’m assuming not. I think this update is only providing improved Autopilot functionality on public roads — not in private parking lots. There is no mention of parking areas or improved autoparking in the release notes for Full Self-Driving.
  2. Autostopping at lights & stop signs: Yep, all Tesla cars in North America with FSD can now automatically stop at red lights and stop signs.
  3. Turning at intersections (right & left turns): Yep, this is part of the FSD suite that just started rolling out to beta testers. We’ll see how it does!
  4. Avoiding potholes: This is supposed to be part of the new software’s capabilities, but there’s no mention of it so far with regards to this new update. Elon Musk did respond on August 14 to a question about this potential capability with the following tweet: “Yes! We’re labeling bumps & potholes, so the car can slow down or steer around them when safe to do so.” So, I would assume the beta testers will see this in action. I also assume it’s at a fairly rudimentary stage and will get much better as time goes on and the neural networks learn how to deal with different types of potholes in different situations (there are so many variations when it comes to potholes — size of the pothole, location in the lane, location relative to other lanes, whether cars are around you or not, whether it’s a long series of potholes or just one, depth of the pothole).
  5. True autoparking: Tesla cars can currently autopark in certain scenarios, but the capability is quite limited. I think the new FSD suite will include better autoparking, but, again, I don’t think the cars will navigate themselves to parking places from far away. I think you’ll still need to be next to the parking space and in a decent position to start the automatic parking process. Sooner or later, though, Full Self-Driving should allow the car to go from one parking space to another. And if I am wrong and that’s already a capability, I will update this article.

Once Tesla nails all of these steps and cars are driving around by themselves with our close supervision, sooner or later, Tesla will have enough data showing that FSD is safer than human driving (humorously called “Humanpilot” on The Twitter) that we will be very close to actual robotaxis. However, the FSD system will have to work almost impeccably to prove to the world that robotaxis can start roaming the streets. One failure or accident — even if it’s not the Tesla’s fault and could not be avoided — will scare people enough that it could delay the rollout of FSD and robotaxis.

As a final note, Elon Musk said on the quarterly Tesla conference call that took place a few hours ago that there will hopefully be wide release of the FSD software by the end of the year.

Is there anything you think is not clear? Any questions?

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No pressure. 


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About the Author

is tryin’ to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao.

Zach has long-term investments in NIO [NIO], Tesla [TSLA], and Xpeng [XPEV]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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