In a previous article, I laid out some basic safety rules and some more advanced concepts for safely testing the Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta. If you haven’t checked that out, be sure to give it a read and share it around. The more people safely and responsibly use this beta feature, the more quickly the technology can develop. Even a few irresponsible people could set it back big time and get people hurt.
In this article, I want to build on the last one and add some real-world experience that’s starting to emerge as the beta is distributed. Unlike some of our readers and friends, I’m not getting a front row seat to the FSD beta, but neither are most Tesla owners. For now, the best thing we can do while we wait is look at the experiences of others and think about how we would handle the situations.
In the above video, there are some clips of great performance, like many fans are putting out on social media. There are also some clips of the system not performing well (which is normal and expected for a beta release). Looking at the good and the bad together helps us learn several important things.
First, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. For some users, the system is running great for minutes at a time. While it may sound backwards, the system could get more dangerous as it improves. The longer we go between disengagements, the easier it will be to forget that it’s a beta program and still needs careful, attentive supervision. Do as Tesla warns. Don’t get complacent.
Secondly, not all disengagements can be predicted. In one case, you could see that the FSD system wasn’t clear on whether to turn or not, and eventually had to be disengaged for safety when it risked going onto the sidewalk. The display showed the lines switching back and forth, so one could possibly see the system was struggling to get it right. In another case, though, the system nearly ran the car into a sign that was out in the pavement. There was no warning that it was going to struggle there, and vigilance was key.
Finally, we can see that it can all happen very quickly. Merely paying attention isn’t really enough. If you’re going to be a tester, you need to be actively mentally engaged in what the car is doing at all times, and be prepared to take over on a split-second’s notice. If you start fading in and fading out of what’s going on, you might not be ready to safely take over before the vehicle does something wrong. As I said before, a “forward leaning” attitude is key.
See any other safety pointers we could all benefit from? Be sure to share them in the comments!
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