What is Tesla Full Self-Driving (FSD)?
Well, as you might have guessed, it's about self-driving cars. Although, it's a tad more complex than that. FSD was first mentioned to the world back in 2014 when Tesla spoke about its Autopilot feature and possible capabilities.
The AutoPilot system started out as almost a suite of features that we see on some modern cars today, including:
- Lane centring
- Traffic-aware cruise control
- Forward collision warning
Since then, we've seen occasional updates until 2019, when we saw a significant set of updates that allowed Tesla vehicles to start their FSD journey.
FSD is the idea that an AI system will mimic how a human learns to drive using a set of sensors and cameras to eventually remove humans from the driving process entirely. Of course, some people may feel there are potential ethical issues around this, but that's for another day.
Nowadays, Tesla cars are equipped with state-of-the-art technology that allows them to drive entirely independently of human control. Including traffic light and stop sign control, autosteer on city streets and smart summon. Smart Summon is a fun one, as it enables you to tap an app on your phone and have your Tesla drive itself right up to the curb next to you so you can continue with your day. Very futuristic, if you ask me!
Although, things aren't quite all sci-fi just yet. Current versions of FSD showed Teslas driving unsurely and, in some cases, requiring a human to intervene, especially on UK roads. There's a long way to go until we start to see AI capable of handling the randomness of real life. Although, it looks like we are getting one step closer with the latest update to AutoPilot.
If you want to see Tesla's AutoPilot in action, take a look at Telsa Driver on YouTube!
What does this new update do?
According to Elon Musk, the new FSD Beta v9 update will be "feature complete". This means that it should handle a good portion of road situations with relative success and incorporate a slew of features, including those mentioned above. However, Elon Musk stated: "people sometimes will extrapolate [feature complete] to mean now it works with 100% certainty, requiring no observation, perfectly, this is not the case."
The goal of this update is to ultimately push Telsa one step closer to achieving fully autonomous driving. But, impressively, it is also trying to do this by ignoring what is considered a standard by other autonomous car manufacturers. That is, by using computer vision and optical imagery only.
Usually, self-driving vehicles use a mix of LiDAR, stereo vision, GPS and IMUs (inertial measurement unit) to allow the onboard computer to perceive its surroundings and make decisions. Tesla believes they can achieve the same level of accuracy and clarity in a vehicle's surroundings solely through the use of cameras, of course, to a lot of criticism from experts and users alike.
Most experts believe that Tesla's attempt to achieve full self-driving by foregoing lidar and high-definition maps is unrealistic. According to the letter sent by Tesla to the California Department of Motor Vehicles in March 2021. Tesla stated that FSD cannot be capable of autonomous driving and is only at Society of Automotive Engineers Level 2 automation. In addition, in a May 2021 study conducted by Guidehouse Insights, Tesla was ranked last in the autonomous driving sector for both strategy and execution.
At the moment, however, Tesla appears to be moving forward with these developments and to increasingly exceptional success.
How good is this new update?
Well, according to several videos posted to YouTube, it's doing rather well!
For the time being, the new update is only available through Tesla's early access programme. According to the most recent Tesla information, the programme includes approximately 2,000 Tesla owners, most of which are Tesla employees.
However, it must be said that a majority of these tests were performed at night and in low-traffic situations. I'm sure we will see a clearer picture in the coming days as more beta testers try out the software in more conditions.
How do I get in on the beta?
Elon Musk has announced a much easier way to access Tesla's Full Self-Driving functionality for Tesla owners. One of Tesla's defining features is the promise that it will eventually be completely autonomous. While the market is still a long way from autonomous driving becoming a standard feature. Tesla has been working hard to make its Full Self-Driving features as accessible as possible to people who can't wait to get their hands on it.
If you own a Tesla and want to participate in the Full Self-Driving beta, the process is quite simple. First, navigate to the Service section on the main display of any Tesla. From there, you should be able to access the Download Beta button to get started. If the button isn't yet visible, Musk notes that the beta's availability "varies by region due to regulatory approval delays and/or Tesla internal development & testing."
Tesla owners can expect a car that can deliver more of the autonomous future Tesla has been promising for years. After signing up for and joining the Full Self-Driving beta, which includes: driving through tricky intersections, roundabouts, more complicated turns, and more.
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