Tesla, Inc. (TSLA) plans to accelerate the rollout of its full self-driving (FSD) software to customers by the end of this week. But regulators aren’t too happy about it.
The central theses
- Tesla plans to give more drivers access to the latest version of its advanced driver assistance software starting this Friday.
- The head of the National Transportation Safety Board says the company’s use of full self-driving to describe its functions is “misleading and irresponsible” and encourages “technology abuse.”
- FSD subscription income could increase Tesla’s sales.
A trial version full of self-driving skills
In a tweet last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the FSD Beta V10.0.1 will be available to more drivers starting September 24th. The previous beta was tested in California with 2,000 drivers mostly on freeways for almost a year.
The scope of the latest FSD version has been expanded to include navigation on motorways and city streets. A beta button available in Tesla vehicles requests permission for seven days to test the driver’s performance for “good behavior” before granting full beta access to the FSD feature suite. Although the FSD feature is supposed to provide some degree of autonomy in driving tasks, Tesla requires drivers to be fully occupied with their vehicles and to always have their hands on the steering wheel.
A number of accidents and breakdowns have plagued Tesla vehicles since the autopilot and self-driving functionality was first introduced. The company is is being investigated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) for its autopilot capability. The agency recently expanded the scope of its investigation by soliciting data from other automakers who have built similar functionality into their vehicles.
Complete self-driving or driver assistance software?
Tesla calls its systems autopilot or self-driving systems and thus implies the automatic navigation and the driving ability of its vehicles. In fact, they are advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that automate driving tasks. Examples of such tasks include parking cars with the summoning feature, navigating with the autopilot, and moving from a freeway entrance to an exit and changing lanes. Tesla’s systems are currently at level 2. Full autonomy – or a vehicle capable of driving itself through city streets and highways – is only achieved at level 5. In previous conference calls and presentations, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has set ambitious schedules completely self-driving, only to trace the development and implementation of the feature and call it “really pretty, pretty tricky.”
Unsurprisingly, security agencies have taken offense at Tesla’s recent efforts to market its self-driving offerings. Jennifer Homendy, director of the National Transportation Safety Board, described Tesla’s use of the FSD term as “misleading and irresponsible” and said its use “has misled numerous people into abusing and abusing technology”. Homendy told the Wall Street Journal, “Fundamental security issues need to be addressed before they can be rolled out to other streets in the city and other areas.”
Meanwhile, a recent MIT study concluded that drivers are less busy with their Tesla vehicles in autopilot mode. According to the study’s authors, drivers looked less on the road and were more involved in non-drivable tasks during autopilot compared to manual driving. “Visual behavior patterns change before and after [Autopilot] Decoupling “, write the authors.” The higher proportion of off-road gazing before decoupling for manual driving was not compensated by longer looks ahead. “
Tesla’s push to expand the market for its FSD subscriptions could boost its sales in the coming quarters. The company charges $ 199 per month to upgrade from Basic Autopilot to FSD capability. Downloading the entire FSD suite costs $ 10,000.
Gene Munster, managing partner of Loup Ventures, has estimated that booked Operating profit FSD’s current $ 600 million in 2021 to $ 102 billion in 2032 when 80% of Teslas on the road choose to subscribe to the feature by late 2013. FSD news and progress also affect the company’s share price. Tesla stock fell 5% after the NHTSA announced its investigation in August.