On April 14, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted “Beta button hopefully next month.” This referred to a download button for an updated version of the Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta firmware (V9) that basically brings door-to-door automated driving to Tesla owners who purchased the FSD package (I did so in 2019 for $6,000, whereas it now costs $10,000 to purchase the same thing). A few thousand lucky owners have been granted access to the beta firmware as Tesla refines it and prepares it for wide rollout, while the remaining US owners who purchased the package have been eagerly awaiting the update for … well, for years for many of us — or months for those who bought it more recently. (And Tesla owners overseas will of course have to wait longer.)
Musk clarified today that the most recent delay for wide rollout of the FSD beta suite is that Tesla has been reworking the system to be 100% based on vision, with no radar (or lidar) involved at all. For more on that topic, see: Elon Musk Shares A Bit More Detail About Tesla FSD’s Pure Vision.
Just to clarify, before getting any further: the FSD update does not make the car a robotaxi or fully autonomous. Drivers still must closely monitor the car and are responsible for anything that happens while driving. However, as some early beta users have shown, it can take a person from their home to Target, or Target to Starbucks, or pick your own Point A and Point B. If the system doesn’t face a huge challenge, it appears capable of covering all aspects of city driving while the human driver supervises. That said, not having the beta firmware yet, I’ll have to wait to comment further on its real-world capabilities.
Musk also noted that a subscription option for FSD would be launched next month. This was previously expected to come with the wide rollout of the massively updated FSD firmware, but it looks like it could now be launched separately and first. This is delayed a month itself, as Musk tweeted on April 14 that “next month is a sure thing.”
Deeper History on Tesla FSD V9 Button
If you’re old enough to remember further back (or for those who aren’t), on March 6, Musk tweeted that the “Download Beta” button would arrive in ~10 days (so, around March 16). Much further back, the capabilities coming in this firmware update were previously expected in 2019, and then 2020. On the Q3 2019 Tesla conference call for shareholders* on October 23, 2019, Musk stated, “it still does appear that we will still be in Early Access release of Full Self Driving by the end of this year.” (*Disclosure: I am a shareholder and I was back then too). On that call, Musk explained the goal further:
“Feature complete means the car is able to drive from one’s house to work most likely without interventions. It will still be supervised, but it will be able to drive. It will fill in the gap from low-speed autonomy … you have low-speed autonomy with Summon, you’ve got high-speed autonomy on the highway, and you have intermediate-speed autonomy which really just means traffic lights and stop signs. Feature complete means it will likely be able to do that without intervention, without human intervention, but it will still be supervised. …
“There’s the three major levels to autonomy,” Musk said on the conference call. “There’s the car being able to be autonomous, but requiring supervision and intervention at times. That’s feature complete. … It doesn’t mean every scenario, everywhere on Earth. It means most of the time.”
Each step of progress seems to create one or two more challenges to overcome or things to refine. At the end of the day, the aim is to bring probability of injury down to 0.000001% for city driving — which would be quite a feat.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.