Will Lucy Pull Back the Full Self-Driving Football Again?

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This coming Friday may be a seminal event in automobile driver automation. It may be the time when many, many thousands of Tesla drivers will be able to sit in their driveway, put in the name or address of their destination, and the car will automatically drive there. It will be a beta release, you will need to be watching like a hawk and prepared to intervene instantaneously in case the software fails in a given situation. However, if your drive is not too complex, you will only need to keep a slight torque on the steering wheel and your car will drive from point A to point B without intervention.

This will be huge if it happens, but will it?

When I bought my Tesla Model 3 Long Range two years ago, I paid $6000 extra for “Full Self Driving.” Since then, Tesla has raised the price and many people have paid $10,000 for the privilege. Fortunately for me, I bought my car in the fall of 2019 after Tesla began installing HW3 computers in every car in the spring of that year. Those who bought their cars before then and paid for FSD were told that their cars had everything they needed, but what they didn’t have is the HW3 computer needed for this latest software release. My brother is in this situation, and up till now, Tesla has not upgraded his computer. The software has been delayed pretty continuously for two years, so it has not mattered much — until now.

Testing Tesla drivers

Friday, September 24, 2021, those Tesla owners who purchased Full Self Driving were allowed to download software release 2021.22.32 with the BUTTON for “Feature Complete” Full Self Driving on city streets. But no, that didn’t give them FSD — it gave them the privilege of taking a test to determine if they drive safely enough for Tesla to trust them with FSD software.

How will Tesla know how safely I am driving? It uses the software it has developed to rate drivers for the insurance it is selling.

How does one know how well they are doing? I heard that I would be able to see my safety score on the Tesla app that I have on my iPhone and iPad. I looked at my app, but saw nothing. I updated the app and still saw nothing. I was told that I would need version 7.1 of the Tesla app, so I updated the app again.

I drove my car for 10 miles that Friday night right after I downloaded the software. Sunday morning, I drove the car 30 miles to church. Of course, I am driving like the State Driver Examiner is sitting in the front passenger seat. My hands are at 10 and 2, my eyes are fixed on the road, I’m applying the slight amount of torque on the steering wheel needed to let the car know I am paying attention, I drive right at the speed limit instead of five miles over, and I let the smart cruise control, autosteer, and autostop at stoplights and stop signs control my car.

Providing feedback on safe driving (and safe Autopiloting)

After updating the Tesla app to version 7.1, voila, I see my Safety Score is 96! Maybe I am doing very well. 

Figure 1: This is the screen from my first Safety Score. The total was 96%.

How do they calculate this? I am rated in 5 different categories.

  1. Forward Collision Warnings — 0.0 avg (Maybe I’m just lucky no deer jumped out in front of my car.)
  2. Hard Braking — 1.1% (I knew I shouldn’t let the car brake itself. It uses the disk brakes and brakes harder than I would using regenerative braking. From now on, I will use regenerative braking.)
  3. Aggressive Turning — 3.6% (I knew I shouldn’t let the car slow down and make the turn by itself. The turn was too aggressive. From now on, I will set the speed down to the recommended speed for a turn, or even 5 mph slower.)
  4. Unsafe Following — 0.0% (Fortunately, traffic was very light and I didn’t follow close to anyone. I also set the automatic following distance to 6 car lengths using the right thumb wheel on the steering wheel.)
  5. Forced Autopilot Disengagement — 0 total (If you fail to apply torque to the steering wheel for long enough, the software “slaps you on the fingers” and says you must stop the car and put it into park before you will be able to use smart cruise, autosteer, etc. again. I didn’t let this happen.)

Daily Details: I drove about 10 miles today, Monday. I slowed down for the turns to the recommended speed, I used regenerative braking for my stops, and voila, I got a perfect score for today and raised my overall score to 97%.

Figure 2:  Voila — I raised my cumulative score to 97%.
Figure 3: As you can see, on the third day, I drove perfectly.

Supposedly, this test will last for seven days. Four more days and then I will be able to access or download “feature-complete” Full Self Driving on City Streets.

But will I get feature-complete FSD, or will Lucy pull back the football again?

Will I pass the test? How high does my score need to be?

I paid $6,000, and what I got so far was the privilege of taking a test. Elon Musk has been promising this software will released in two weeks for the last two years. (Or so it seems.) Will it really happen this time?

Note: It’s not that we have received nothing so far. I list the FSD features below that I have enjoyed since I bought the car as well as the features gained during the last two years. However, feature-complete FSD is the big kahuna! I can’t wait!

Should you spend an extra $10,000 for “Full Self-Driving”?

Every Tesla comes equipped with smart cruise control and autosteer. If there is a car in front of you, you essentially have 100% self-driving until you need to make a turn. You have full automation in a traffic jam, where the car will move forward on its own as needed, automatically following the car in front of you. The autosteer is phenomenal most of the time. It will track your lane more accurately than you can, slow down for sharp turns, and relieve most of the tension of long distance driving. You have to stay alert, because it won’t always make the right decision on complex lane changes and it won’t handle rotaries and really sharp turns like those marked 15 mph. 

Should you pay an extra $10,000 for “Full Self Driving”? With FSD, you can Navigate on Autopilot on limited access roads. The car will automatically pass slow-moving cars and exit the passing lane on its own. It will change lanes when you activate the turn signal. It will use the address you have inserted into the navigation to follow your route even through complex interstate interchanges in big cities, take the exit specified, and then pass control of the vehicle back to you. On normal city streets, it won’t follow the navigation but it will automatically stop at stop signs and stop lights. You can summon the car to where you are standing in a parking lot as well, and it will automatically parallel park between two cars on a street.

This week, those of us who paid for “Full Self Driving” were finally able to download the software to enable us to automatically go from starting point to destination (via the car’s navigation system) on city streets — assuming we pass our safe driving tests. Like with autosteer, you will still need to be alert and prepared to take over when the system makes mistakes. Until this software is released, many people think FSD is not worth the money.

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Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler has 123 posts and counting. See all posts by Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler