Opinion: Tesla's Full-Self Driving Beta Is a Bad Joke

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
opinion teslas full self driving beta is a bad joke

Earlier this week, Elon Musk announced that Tesla would begin offering the Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta to testers that had achieved sufficiently high marks in its new “safety score.” While company has repeatedly promised to launch FSD in earnest, which costs $10,000 to purchase or $199 a month to rent (depending on which version of Autopilot you’re using), the system has been habitually delayed from getting a widespread release. This has upset more than a few customers operating under the assumption that having bought into the service actually meant something.

That said, the rollout has technically begun and continues encompassing more users. But regulators are annoyed that the company is now testing FSD’s functionality on thousands of paying customers and the terms in which Tesla is offering FSD has changed in a manner that makes your author extremely uncomfortable. The automaker originally intended to provide the system via a simple over-the-air (OTA) update as availability expanded. However Tesla now has a button allowing drivers to request FSD by opening them up to a period of scrutiny where their driving is digitally judged. Despite your having already shelled out cash for it, access to the beta is determined by the manufacturer’s safety score.

While I’ve always hated Tesla’s penchant for making bold promises that it later has to walk back and deliver late, its handling of FSD has been truly egregious. Paying customers have been expecting Full Self Driving for years at this point, with CEO Musk promising to have it ready to go in the summer of 2018.

By 2019, he said that there would be over a million vehicles using the system — which also turned out to be a lie.

We are now closing in on 2022, with FSD being trickled out to members of its early access program ( the ones that didn’t sue Tesla for false advertising) and placed availability behind an arbitrary and invasive 7-day scoring system. We know that automakers are already using vehicular connectivity to track your diving habits so they can be monetized in a manner similar to how Google chronicles your browsing history. But Tesla is now asking customers to willingly share information about their behavior while using an insurance calculator to determine whether or not you can try out a service you’ve already paid good money for.

Tesla has a FAQ about how the scoring is done. But it basically comes down to five factors, several of which are more likely to determine how much fun you’re having from behind the wheel than anything else. Metrics include how many times the forward collision warning was triggered, your average following distances, and the number of times Autopilot was forced to disengage. But Tesla is also monitoring the frequency at which your lateral acceleration surpassed 0.4 G or backward acceleration exceeded 0.3 G.

Stomping the brake hard or turning in too aggressively will disqualify you from even trying FSD. Though so will rampant Autopilot deactivations, which would be influenced more by road conditions than your personal driving style.

Listen, I don’t want to understate how important Tesla has been in regard to popularizing electric vehicles. But the brand has been underdelivering for years and frequently goes back on its word. Now it has nerve to demand customers be judged by their own vehicles in order to see if they’re worthy of having access to something they probably purchased years ago? Where are the pitchfork-laden mobs on this? How has no one crashed a Model S through Elon Musk’s front door yet?

And the FSD Beta still doesn’t amount to anything approaching genuine vehicular autonomy. While testers can have vehicles “drive themselves” on highways and city streets after inputting their destination on the navigational screen, it is still considered an SAE Level 2 driver assistance system because operators have to supervise the system at all times. Taking your hands off the wheel or looking elsewhere will result in some warning chimes, followed by prompt deactivation.

But that’s become commonplace in all vehicles using advanced driving aids, as companies have begun deploying increasingly aggressive monitoring protocols. In an effort to protect themselves, manufacturers are attempting to place the liabilities associated with “self driving” back onto the operator. Unfortunately, this appears to be ushering in industry trends bent on nullifying the privacy of operators in exchange for half-baked assistance programs that discourage engagement while simultaneously demanding your full attention.

Meanwhile, all the information that’s amassed by modern vehicles under the guise of autonomy is being leveraged by automakers and insurance groups to enhance their profitability. Consumers appear to have paid a high price for the privilege of being screwed by the industry and its bewildering that there hasn’t been more outrage pertaining to the issue. We’ve been sold a false bill of goods and should begin acting like it.

[Image: Tesla]

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  • Stuki Stuki on Oct 04, 2021

    You know: As strange, and disappointing, as this may seem to the terminally naive and gullible: Flash Gordon actually isn't real! Weird, eh? And: While Flash Gordon may have been a decent enough show back then, it has been a rather bad joke for quite some time now. Also, while we're on the topic of great, life changing surprises: Con men will continue selling The Brooklyn Bridge, for just as long as, tah-dah; there are people continuing to buy The Brooklyn Bridge! Now,I'll be darned!

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Oct 04, 2021

    I can hear the writing on legal pads now. Let the lawsuits begin!

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.