By on October 1, 2021

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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54 Comments on “Opinion: Tesla’s Full-Self Driving Beta Is a Bad Joke...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It isn’t FSD if your driving record matters.

    • 0 avatar
      ScarecrowRepair

      In fact, just the reverse: if Elon actually believed in FSD himself, he’d prioritize the worst drivers. Obviously he has no faith in it.

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      Has Tesla fixed the “lock on to and ram emergency vehicle” glitch,… or is it a feature? Elon seems to have sobered up and has not made any “robo-taxi” or other fantastic claims. So they much be on solid financial footing now.
      “Shows over folks, we’re shutting down Hype Machine, we were only kidding about the FSD, the Semi, still might build the Roadster2, someday, maybe, and wasn’t that Cyber Truck thing a hoot? Jeez, you idiots will believe anything! I love you guys!”

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Who buys a car to NOT drive it? I’d be running Plaid every day, were I to own a Tesla.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    It is fun to read this write-up out loud using one’s own “whiny voice.”

    https://youtu.be/rYnxn_35NzI?t=61

    https://thevoicelady.com/whiny-nasal-voice/

  • avatar
    mcs

    While FSD is a trainwreck, I think the right-to-repair issues are worse. It’s very easy to avoid buying FSD and no one is forcing you to turn on autopilot, but buyers are stuck with the poor treatment of 3rd party repair shops. That’s my biggest issue with Tesla.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Ain’t gonna happen. Ever. People have seen too many Airplane movies where the cabin crew gets into zany antics. Aircraft autopilot is cruise control for airplanes. Someone has to be in the seat, watching gauges, be prepared for an engine puking, while your other cabin crew gets a break, go leak the lizard, or grab a cup of joe. Repeat, someone is always watching the gauges. All this happens in controlled airspace. Now think of the wild west that is your daily drive.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Everything you say is true, Mr. Posky. At the same time, I have a hard time ginning up sympathy for those Tesla fanbois who seem determined to wear “kick me, hard!” shirts on their backs. If you’re going to live on the bleeding edge, you’re gonna bleed once in a while. It’s not like Tesla doesn’t have a track record in this respect, as the article points out, in detail.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I’m neither a fan or hater of Tesla, but I wouldn’t trust any of Musk’s promises. I’m glad they’re not handing this out to idiots who want to take a nap while auotpilot drives them home…but if you can’t do that, what’s the point? Clearly FSD isn’t ready, and it will be a long time before it is. I hate that they’re pushing half-baked tech that’s going to get people killed.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      I mean he is only running the largest EV company in the world and making the most advanced cars in the world, and Space X is sending people to the space station and into orbit, and NSA has chosen Space X for the moon lander. The man sucks.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        Well. Let’s not use too much hyperbole.

        “Most advanced cars in the world”? What is advanced about shoddy quality and bumpers that fall off in the rain?

        Teslas are not advanced at all. They are very low quality. Elon is only good at marketing. The product is crap

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        Most advanced cars? I’d argue just the opposite. They’re the most simplified. That’s a good thing.

        HOWEVER…..

        Why can’t Tesla figure out build quality, align body panels correctly and use better quality materials and make the car more easily repairable?

        The religious fervor of Tesla defenders undermines their argument because they can’t see objectively.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    In my opinion, Elon is committed to real, level five autonomy. All the hype, overpromising, delayed releases and other games are his attempt to keep that dream alive until his programmers make it actually work. That’s hard on the customers who advanced him $10k in working capital in the expectation that success was a lot closer than it has turned out to be.

    Since both are level two systems, I don’t see much benefit to FSD over Autopilot even without considering FSD’s price. I’m interested in a Model 3 Long Range with basic Autopilot.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Still seems less impressive than what Cadillac already has? SC is a fully hands off system on roads where it has data. Tesla to my knowledge is just like any other maker’s “you can have your hands off for X amount of time before it starts yelling at you.” I don’t understand the point of those systems at all. Either do the steering or don’t. Me having to constantly babysit an “automatic” system isn’t progress.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    I’m wondering if he missed the FSR marketing potential. I want a chauffeur, not a nanny. Preferably a robot with Musk’s head swiveling on a stick.

  • avatar
    probert

    Not sure what metric you’re using in stating Tesla has under-delivered for years. FSD (which isn’t a version of autopilot) has been harder than imagined, and Musk as stated as much. Even if never fully successful it is yielding interesting AI results, and Tesla is acknowledges as a leader in the field. Apart fron FSD, Tesla is growing faster than 100% YoY and is about to open 2 major factories and a couple of of others for Meg Packs , chargers and batteries. That’s a heck of a busy company. Now if musk would zip it, and – oh yeah – put steering wheels in the damned car …

    • 0 avatar
      Mike A

      Tesla is not acknowledged as a leader in AI and FSD by independent guides. Under delivered in promising five years ago a crops country drive, under delivered in promising the Roadster, Semi and Cybertruck to be out by now. Instead Tesla May be at best fourth to market for the truck. They are no longer growing that fast, sales in the US have been essentially flat since 2019 and the S and X are dead, selling at 20% of what they used to do globally.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “Tesla is not acknowledged as a leader in AI and FSD by independent guides. ”

        Pretty much no one is a leader in autonomy and all of the companies involved in vehicle autonomy. In terms of AI technology, they might actually be ahead of the other companies. None of them are leading edge for AI.

        ” under delivered in promising the Roadster, Semi and Cybertruck to be out by now.”

        Those vehicles require their new 4680 battery technology. They’re doing the right thing and spending the time to get the technology right. I’m sure that as a result of the Bolt issues, I’m sure they’ve added even more testing. It’s good to see a company actually delaying a product to make sure they get it right.

        ” the S and X are dead, selling at 20% of what they used to do globally.”

        Because they replaced it with a new version and they’re still ramping up production. I’m seeing delivery dates of February for the plaid and May for the long range. So, there is definitely demand. There is more competition for the S and X, but other manufacturers have their own production constraints.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          Just to add to that, Tesla delivered more Model S’ in just the third quarter than Mercedes delivered S classes for all of 2020. They’re also ahead of them for this year.

          • 0 avatar
            conundrum

            And I bet all those S-Class are assembled to the same quality level as Teslas. Maybe even better, if one can possibly imagine that.

            Not you mcs, because it’s obvious you keep up on all things EV and autonomous driving systems obsessively almost, but the average punter wanders around in a haze when they do no more than read a car site for daily news.

            If they did venture further, they’d know that Musk hisself said FSD wasn’t that great:

            https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/23/elon-musk-says-tesla-fsd-beta-9point2-software-is-not-great.html

            Of course, the Muskies don’t read news and rely on hero worship for the facts.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Stupid system. People are stupid for wanting it.

    1- Regardless of when or where you are with FSD engaged, you must always be watching and on guard to jump in and take over control. So, what s the point? And you pay $10,000 for the option? Yeah right. There is no point. But it is cool for gadget people and techie beta boys.

    2- My wife’s Forester has lane keep and adjustable follow distance on the cruise control. Works flawlessly. I ll use it while eating a sandwich on I 75. 90% of whats going on in #1 above. No muss- no fuss.

    3- Elon is like Clinton (when that sicko was president). always in the news for news sake. Ego sake. AND THE MEDIA ENABLES BOTH WITH CONSTANT AND FAVORABLE COVERAGE.

    4- And because of 3, elon in motivated to deliver more empty promises more often. Electric semi. come on. wont happen with in 10 years AND SO it IS USELESS TO TALK ABOUT NOW. Everything will change by then.

    What ever – I dont care any more.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      “Elon is like Clinton (when that sicko was president). always in the news for news sake. Ego sake. AND THE MEDIA ENABLES BOTH WITH CONSTANT AND FAVORABLE COVERAGE.”

      That “sicko” didn’t have to pay his mistresses.

      And the media -for-profit,corporate- couldn’t get enough of covering every insane rant that the Mango Mussolini spewed. Time to wake up and realize that big-box media cares about profits above all else.

  • avatar
    jmo2

    Meanwhile you have the average driver:

    https://youtu.be/HGL9s-pN8UY

    And for Matt and Tim – a popular reoccurring post might be, “What the hell did you just do?” Take 0:20 of the clip above. Did they hit a patch of ice and start to skid ever so slightly to the left and in response yanked the wheel hard to the right?

    Or take 3:00 – how did they manage that? Are they just making steering inputs that are an order of magnitude too aggressive?

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    Matt, no one is complaining about privacy with any of the automakers because they just don’t care. Oh sure, they’ll care when that information is leveraged in a way they feel hurts them – and that will ultimately happen. But, until such a scenario is very obvious, Americans just don’t care. The privacy train left the station at least 20 years ago – with full, enthusiastic support from the overwhelming majority of the population. Take their privacy, take their money, take their rights – take anything. Just give them convenience wrapped in something shiny and new.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      This is when people will care about privacy in their cars: when they get a call from their insurance telling them that their car ratted them out for either bad driving or for driving more miles than you tell the insurance company you drive. When that happens, people will be hunting for their fuse boxes to stop the data connection.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Careful with all this rabble rousing against the approved narrative. Wouldn’t want to get banned from the internet, now would you? You will accept being monitored, because its private corporations doing it, NOT the government. So it’s ok.

    I do love how the automakers are now selling an expensive feature and have figured out how to shift all liability for it to the drivers. Clever. Also why full self driving will never happen. The automakers would never risk being the ones responsible for the failure.

  • avatar
    ABC-2000

    Yesterday, at a red traffic light, I stopped behind a Tesla model S P100 on a Manhattan street, the light turn green but the Tesla is not moving, cars behind me started to honk and the Tesla driver (a famous TV host) came out of his car, he came to my window to apologize, he said “I am very sorry, the car just stall, it will take me a few min to restart, you know, it’s a Tesla”, from my understanding, this is probably not the first time for him and I wonder if this is the future, that we are driving a computer that might need a restart once a week.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @ABC-2000: Okay, so what was the host’s name? I’m a neighbor of Leno’s and I could have him reach out to the person and maybe help out (it’s a good excuse for me to go over and say hello). That’s unusual in that I’ve never heard of an MCU issue that kept the car from moving.

      • 0 avatar
        ABC-2000

        To mcs; that person was Fareed Zakaria.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          Thanks! He’s CNN. Hmm. It’s probably the emmc problem. It’s fixable. A bad design from V1. Lots of issues with those earlier Model S’s. Combine that with my personal number one issue with Tesla (their lack of support for 3rd party repair) and I wouldn’t touch the 1st gen Model S or the X.

          Tesla definitely isn’t the only maker with vehicles that might need a reboot. I remember having an issue with a BMW E46 that required a reset while moving. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was – it was a long time ago.

          I also just saw a youtuber that bricked his C8 by bleeding the brakes and not having the special tool GM requires to reset it.

          The heavy computerization in cars is a double-edged sword. It causes issues at times for sure, but ultimately I think it’s better because we do get more data when trying to troubleshoot a problem. While modern cars can be bricked due to software design issues, there were plenty of mechanical issues that could brick older cars. Sometimes finding those issues was a lot tougher without data pointing to the problem.

          • 0 avatar
            ABC-2000

            To mcs; I had infotainment system problems in 3 Accords, 2014,2016 and 2018, 2 of them just automatically reboot but the first one, the 2014, required me to stop the car and restart it, this would happened at least once a week but the car would still drive (-:). Now I drive a 2021 CX-5, zero reboots for the last 6 month.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            mcs, Sounds like a lot of excuses for bad design and an unwillingness for Tesla to fix this.

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      Sounds like normal Tesla stuff.

      Expensive garbage.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    I’ve been calling BS on self driving from day one. Two reasons:

    1. The 0.5% of driving situations that require intuition only possessed by humans.

    2. Liability issues.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Gotta call it as I see it – I’m in agreement with Matt here.

  • avatar
    watersketch

    You know what is truly genius? That Tesla is going to sell nearly a million vehicles with No Marketing Budget.

    Say what you want about Musk he gets the word out, for less $ than Mary Barra Bill Ford and whoever runs the other car cos.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “You know what is truly genius? That Tesla is going to sell nearly a million vehicles with No Marketing Budget.”

    Good point; Tesla certainly has disrupted the industry and I give them credit for that. They appeal to a certain class of buyer, but it’s not me.

    I don’t want my car driving itself. I don’t want the basic functions of my car dependent on software that I don’t own, and is updated monthly at the whim of the manufacturer.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      Disrupt= eliminate jobs.

      Did Musk pass that savings on to you? No, of course not.

      All disruptors destroy careers. That’s their entire schtick. Some pass pennies in savings to the customers, others do not. You happily accept their disruption, ignoring the fact that it makes millions of people rely on public assistance to survive. And then you hate THE WORKERS, rather than those who put them there.

      But, it’s easy to blame and hate the powerless. It’s way harder to stand up to those you fear, those with power and influence.

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    Tesla is run by an autistic billionaire. Is there a less empathetic combination?

    He doesn’t care who dies.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Musk will never admit how far we are from having cars consistently, safely drive themselves. He can’t as his story would fall apart if he said we’re a few decades away.

    I’m frustrated enough with being an unwilling beta tester for smartphone and computer OS’. Absolutely don’t want that in a 4-5500 lb bullet.

  • avatar
    stuki

    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!

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

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

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