After a long — often impatient — wait, Tesla owners across the United States have nearly gotten access to the company’s “FSD Beta” driver-assist software for city streets. As one of those owners, I’m going to document below what exactly we got in the past 24 hours.
First of all, note that you had to buy the “Full Self-Driving” package in order to get this latest update. Back when I bought my Tesla Model 3 two years ago, this software package cost $6,000. It now costs $10,000. (One key reason I bought it is that I knew the price would go up and that this could eventually make my car an appreciating asset. At the least, it seemed clear that it would be an appreciating feature, and I’d say that a 67% increase in value over two years is pretty good.)
At the moment, people who bought the “Full Self-Driving” software package have a few notable but not life-changing things that Tesla owners who didn’t buy the package don’t have: the cars 1) can automatically change lanes when you turn on the turn signal, 2) can navigate around traffic on Interstate highways from off-ramp to on-ramp on their own (with supervision of course), and 3) can automatically stop at red lights & stop signs. However, the cars still can’t turn right or left on their own, avoid potholes on their own, go from your starting point to a designated destination autonomously, or go through roundabouts on their own. With the “FSD Beta” update, a Tesla can do those things (well, I’m not sure about avoiding potholes, but we’ll find out soon enough).
In the past 24 hours, Tesla has rolled out an update that is typically now referred to as “the button” in Tesla circles. I got the update and installed it this morning. Here’s how the process went:
Step 1 — Update Car
As with all Tesla over-the-air software updates, it first needed to be downloaded via WiFi (which can be done while driving or parked) and then installed (which typically takes ~25 minutes and must be done while parked since the car turns off and then back on during the process). In the first picture below, you can see a countdown clock till the installation begins. (There is always a 2 minute-countdown clock that begins as soon as you hit the button to install the new software, giving you some time to cancel/postpone the update in case you realized you don’t want to do it at that time.)
Step 2 — Check What Updates You Got
Typically, after a software update has been installed, when you return to the car, there’s a box showing on the screen to explain what you got with the update. If the update just involves bug fixes, the “release notes” won’t automatically be shown on the screen. Oddly, in this case, despite being a significant update, nothing showed on the screen. At any time, though, you can find the release notes by navigating there from the car icon on the bottom-left corner of the screen. Just click the car icon, then click “Software” on the bottom of the bottom of the menu on the left side, and then find the blue text/link “Release Notes” under some information about your car. When I navigated there this morning, I saw that I did indeed get the “Request Full Self-Driving Beta” update. It is written there how to go about requesting access, which is Step 3 below.
Step 3 — “REQUEST FULL SELF-DRIVING BETA”
At long last — a little more than two years after buying the car and slightly less than one year after expecting to get this exact update — I am on the verge of getting FSD Beta, which is basically door-to-door driving on city streets at this point (as long as the doors are on public streets). I clicked that button on the top of the Autopilot page on the Model 3 touchscreen and was on my way, getting to Step 4 below.
Step 4 — Give Access to Your Data, 1st Child, etc.
I had to check three boxes in order to be let in the door. They are faint in the picture below because I had already checked them and opted in by the time I took this photo, and I didn’t want to take any risk by trying to temporarily opt out. What you can see in the pic below, though, is that I consented to let them use my car’s driving data; I understood that I had to remain alert, with my hands on the wheel at all times, while FSD Beta was active; and I understood that FSD Beta could be revoked (taken away) at any time if Tesla felt I didn’t deserve it..
Step 5 — Watch Tesla Safety Score Obsessively
Tesla is evaluating driver behavior in a handful of ways that the company feels are important to determining whether to give someone access to FSD Beta or not. Below is the snapshot result from the Tesla app on my phone after driving to a tennis tournament for my daughter, driving from there to the beach for a bit, and then driving home. Notably, I think I know exactly where I lost a point and a half for “hard braking.” I was on a fairly fast road and getting close to a light when the light turned yellow. I wasn’t close enough yet that I could comfortably just coast through the intersection, but I was too close to very gradually slow down. I had to decide whether to speed through the intersection possibly as the light was turning red or brake harder than I almost ever have to brake. I chose the latter and immediately complained that this might penalize me in this brand new Tesla Safety Score system. (I had just learned about this scoring system while editing & publishing Johnna’s article at the beach — yes, I even have to work at the beach, or think I do.) It seems that it did penalize me for that.
Nonetheless, this is apparently a pretty good score. You can see how some other Tesla drivers are doing via the following tweets:
— charles (@heywhatsoup) September 25, 2021
Yeah… not a good day according to the algorithm. pic.twitter.com/IhRHUF19wB
— Boris Snitkovskiy (@snitkovskiy) September 26, 2021
For now…..what is the minimum score to get fsd beta next week? pic.twitter.com/aB7QsmKyaw
— Z. (@applelinux) September 25, 2021
First forced autopilot disengagement! pic.twitter.com/U6viajc7qY
— Dionysus X (@dh_park02) September 26, 2021
I have to take my car in for inspection tomorrow. Got a feeling by braking score is going in shitter. pic.twitter.com/ZIcZPD5CzX
— D&V (@d_vwatts) September 25, 2021
— i1 (@i1Tesla) September 26, 2021
There’s more about this system explained on the Tesla Safety Score Beta page, but here’s the summary explanation of the five safety factors Tesla is evaluating:
|Forward Collision Warnings per 1,000 Miles
Forward Collision Warnings are audible and visual alerts provided to you, the driver, in events where a possible collision due to an object in front of the vehicle is considered likely without your intervention. Events are captured based on the ‘medium’ Forward Collision Warning sensitivity setting regardless of your user’s setting in the vehicle. Forward Collision Warnings are incorporated into the Safety Score formula at a rate per 1,000 miles.
Hard braking is defined as backward acceleration, measured by your Tesla vehicle, in excess of 0.3g. This is the same as a decrease in the vehicle’s speed larger than 6.7 mph, in one second. Hard braking is introduced into the Safety Score formula as the proportion of time (expressed as a percentage) where the vehicle experiences backward acceleration greater than 0.3g relative to the proportion of time where the vehicle experiences backward acceleration greater than 0.1g (2.2 mph in one second).
Aggressive turning is defined as left/right acceleration, measured by your Tesla vehicle, in excess of 0.4g. This is the same as an increase in the vehicles speed to the left/right larger than 8.9 mph, in one second. Aggressive turning is introduced into the Safety Score formula as the proportion of time (expressed as a percentage) where the vehicle experiences lateral acceleration greater than 0.4g, in either the left or right direction, relative to the proportion of time where the vehicle experiences acceleration greater than 0.2g (4.5 mph in one second), in either the left or right direction.
Your Tesla vehicle measures its own speed, the speed of the vehicle in front and the distance between the two vehicles. Based on these measurements, your vehicle calculates the number of seconds you would have to react and stop if the vehicle in front of you came to a sudden stop. This measurement is called headway. Unsafe following is the proportion of time where your vehicle’s headway is less than 1.0 seconds relative to the time that your vehicle’s headway is less than 3.0 seconds. Unsafe following is only measured when your vehicle is traveling at least 50 mph and is incorporated into the Safety Score formula as a percentage.
|Forced Autopilot Disengagement
The Autopilot system disengages for the remainder of a trip after you, the driver, have received three audio and visual warnings. These warnings occur when your Tesla vehicle has determined that you have removed your hands from the steering wheel and have become inattentive. Forced Autopilot Disengagement is introduced into the Safety Score formula as a 1 or 0 indicator. The value is 1 if the Autopilot system is forcibly disengaged during a trip, and 0 otherwise.
Naturally, I will be monitoring my Safety Score obsessively in the coming week and hoping that it turns out good enough to get entry into the FSD Beta testing program. We don’t yet know what the cutoff score will be for inclusion, or if inclusion is more nuanced than that.