Tesla has just released it's first beta version of its overhauled Autopilot. This week a selected group of Tesla drivers received the beta version of the FSD software that was automatically downloaded to their cars. The new and improved software is to enable the electric vehicles to be able to steer and accelerate without manual human and without the use of hands and feet.
Tesla boss, Elon Musk has a vision for Full Self-Driving (FSD) that automates the entire process of driving a car. This will make Tesla the first car maker with fully autonomous driving by average consumers. However, there has been some criticism and skepticism regarding the safety on Tesla’s technology. And it has raised the question if the world is even ready for this.
This week, the Self-Driving Coalition that has members such as Ford, Uber, and Volvo have criticized Tesla, saying its vehicles are not fully autonomous because they still require an active driver. Because self-driving is not tightly regulated in the United States, Tesla did not need authorization to launch its new feature.
The critics are saying that Tesla is going ahead with its FSD without the use of an important piece of hardware, a Lidar sensor. This is a sensor that is placed on the exterior of the vehicle to identify the exact shape, size, and depth of an object in real time, even in bad weather.
Tesla’s approach to full self-driving is to use a suite of cameras and a specific radar that stays connected to an advanced network. The safety experts are saying that while Tesla’s technology is able to detect vehicles and pedestrians in the road as well as other objects, it cannot always predict the precise depth or shape of potential obstacles it encounters. In previous interviews, the Tesla CEO has made it known that he is not a fan of Lidar sensors and he has no intention of using them:
“Lidar is a fool’s errand and anyone relying on lidar is doomed. Doomed! They are expensive sensors that are unnecessary. It’s like having a whole bunch of expensive appendices. Like, one appendix is bad, well now you have a whole bunch of them, it’s ridiculous, you’ll see.”
Additionally, other auto manufacturers like Waymo test autonomous vehicle capabilities in controlled settings whereas Tesla gets the beta testing done by consumers out on the roads. So, critics are saying this increases risk to other drivers if there’s any malfunction.
Musk did announce on Twitter the rollout of the new self-driving version will be done cautiously:
"FSD beta rollout happening tonight. Will be extremely slow & cautious, as it should."
Yesterday, Tesla released its quarterly earnings posting a profit of $331 million. In the earnings call, the company also plugged the full self-driving rollout to the select group of drivers and said, “as we continue to collect data over time, the system will become more robust.” Musk added that the feature will become widely available to other Tesla owners by the end of this year. But for the time being, FSD will be slow because “the world is a complex and messy place.” Depending on how the beta testing goes, Tesla will release it to more people and gradually step it up.
Autonomous vehicles is seen as the future of transportation and Tesla’s timeline has been rapid towards achieving this goal. So, we can expect fans and critics to carefully monitor the results of the new Tesla FSD capability.