Tesla has just released a beta version of "Full self-driving", the feature that allows its cars to offer a fully autonomous driving mode
Driver reaction shows that Tesla seems to have taken a big step towards "fully" autonomous driving.
The "fully" autonomous driving will undoubtedly be the greatest challenge of this decade in the automotive industry. Many manufacturers are involved, including big names such as Tesla, Nissan, General Motors, etc. Tesla has just released a beta version of "Full self-driving", the feature that allows its cars to offer a fully autonomous driving mode for a limited number of customers. The beta would allow Tesla vehicles to drive autonomously in the vast majority of common road situations and make many trips from start to finish.
Several YouTube videos show test results from tests conducted to highlight the capabilities of Tesla's Full self-driving mode (FSD). Above all, the company announced that it is only a beta version and that it is not yet intended for full self-driving operation. Thus, drivers are expected to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel at all times. In the videos you can see how important it is to monitor the software, because the FSD often makes serious mistakes and sometimes engages in maneuvers that can lead to a collision with other cars.
According to critics, it is impressive to see that Tesla has gone that far. On the other hand, it is clear that the software still has a long way to go before approaching human levels of driving performance. Indeed, an experienced human driver can drive thousands of miles without making any serious mistakes, and Tesla's new software is far from reaching that level. In a video released on Friday, for example, a Tesla car, with the FSD enabled, can be seen driving straight towards another car to create a collision.
"This car was going so fast," said Brandon, the author of the video. "I had to disengage the clutch on the spot because he [FSD] didn't detect that car for some reason. In the video, Brandon's Tesla was turning left, but was not accurate enough to avoid hitting a car parked across the side street. "Oh Jeeeesus," said Brandon as he grabbed the steering wheel to turn left. "It was a good example of what's still beta and the importance of being in control at all times," he said. "He just went straight to the back of that parked car and he wasn't going to brake.
The critics add, however, that in fairness to Tesla, it's hard to say whether any of these mistakes would have led to an accident. Would the software have realized its mistake and hit the brakes at the last second? If so, is this really a good driving experience? So many unanswered questions. In addition, despite his minor incidents, Brandon was pleased with the improvements made to the FSD by the manufacturer. The improvements over the two previous versions of the software are incredible," he said.
The other Tesla drivers who shared a video of their testing had a similar, but mixed, experience to Brandon's. They were impressed with how quickly the FSD improved, but each of them intervened several times when the software's behavior made them nervous. "It's crazy, it's scary, and it's really good," said Tesla owner Zeb Hallock in a video released Sunday. Hallock had just taken control as his car passed a cyclist at a cornering point on the road.
As the car moved to make way for the cyclist, Hallock said, "The road was winding, and it was a curve, and I wasn't sure. Even if it was completely safe, it might scare someone with all that zigzagging. In a video, Electrek said that the acceleration of the new FSD is significantly improved over the previous version. They also believe that "the transition is incredibly smooth" and that the SDF's lane change now looks pretty good. That is said, it notes some things the manufacturer will still have to work on.
First of all, Electrek believes that the new FSD sometimes forgets to turn on the turn signal before turning. Second, they also observed that the FSD moves a bit too aggressively toward a speed bump.
Tesla in the face of increasing competition in the sector
An analysis of Customer Reports last month revealed that Tesla is now being chased by serious competitors. What's more, the company's Autopilot is said to be inferior to Cadillac's Super Cruise driver assistance feature. For example, in its 2020 Driver Assistance System Ranking, CR awarded 69 points to the Super Cruise, placing it in first place, compared to 57 points for the second-placed Autopilot. Other manufacturers are closely following Tesla in this ranking, but they do not yet offer a fully autonomous driving function.
On this point, Tesla competes directly with Waymo, a division of the Alphabet Group. Since 2017, Waymo has been operating a self-guided cab service in the suburbs of Chandler, Phoenix, with security drivers at the wheel of almost every vehicle. Earlier this month, after more than three years of testing, Waymo finally began offering driverless cab rides to the general public. But it was the most cautious launch imaginable. The service is limited to a 50 square mile corner of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
The company initially offered fewer than 100 driverless rides per week, and the rides are closely monitored by Waymo's operations center staff in Chandler, Arizona. There is also General Motors with Cruise. GM tends to take a similar approach to Waymo and plans to launch a low-speed cab service in a single San Francisco neighborhood before the end of this year. This business model is different from that of Tesla. Tesla sells cars instead of running a cab service.
Tesla used a radically different testing strategy. Instead of trying to move directly to a fully autonomous service, the company started with a basic trajectory maintenance system and gradually added capabilities over the last four years. This strategy culminated last week in the introduction of a fully autonomous driving service that allows Tesla cars to complete most end-to-end routes. But even though Tesla insists on staying focused on the road, some drivers could easily trust the FSD and stop paying attention to the road.
This could lead to road accidents, as is already the case with Autopilot. Many drivers already see Tesla's Driver Assistance System as a fully autonomous driving function and allow themselves to watch videos while driving, creating accidents. Some reports believe that the name of the feature, Autopilot, misleads drivers, it would be ambiguous and would not express the role of the feature very clearly. So, what should we expect with the FSD with a bolder name?
The new version of the SDF now costs $10,000, $2,000 more than before. The price increase is currently only for the United States. Note that the price of the SDF option has increased steadily over the last two years. It rose from $5,000 to $6,000 in May of last year, to $7,000 in November, and to $8,000 in June. But these price increases are only a small part of the price Musk believes Tesla owners will eventually pay for the technology, which he believes could exceed $100,000.