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Tesla Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta Rolls Out To ~1000 More Drivers — My 1st Impressions

Early this morning at about 3am ET/midnight California time, Tesla started rolling out access to “Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta” to Tesla owners who had gotten an average Safety Score of 100 and driven more than 100 miles since September 25. As noted previously, I was one of the ~1000 drivers who met those criteria. Therefore, the software update started just after 3am here in Florida and I immediately installed it so that it would be ready in the morning before it was time to take my girls to school.

I’ve driven with it just a little bit so far, but I promised to offer first impressions right after getting it, so that’s what I’m doing. I imagine I’ll have more nuance and detail to share after getting a few hundred miles under the belt. At the moment, I’ve gone maybe 15–20 miles with FSD engaged.

The best overall summary I can give is that it’s basically like supervising a brand new driver with a learner’s permit. It’s a good thing that Tesla rolled out the Safety Score system first, because I think it is important at this stage to have people using FSD Beta who 1) are extremely attentive to their surroundings on the road, 2) are very ready to handle their own car in a “defensive driving” way, and 3) don’t routinely drive in the toughest driving environments. The FSD computer needs to learn — a lot. The system’s capabilities right now are tremendous, but they’re surely not ready for driving in New Delhi. I’ll get into some specific points to explain what I mean, but first, I also want to highlight the email Tesla sent when I got the update, which is nearly identical to the text you see on the touchscreen once you enable FSD Beta. I think this is a very helpful, responsible, good email:


Hello,

We will be pushing FSD Beta Version 10.2 (2021.32.25) to your vehicle shortly!

Full Self-Driving is in limited early access Beta and must be used with additional caution. It may do the wrong thing at the worst time, so you must always keep your hands on the wheel and pay extra attention to the road. Do not become complacent. When Full Self-Driving Beta is enabled, your vehicle will make lane changes off highway, select forks to follow your navigation route, navigate around other vehicles and objects, and make left and right turns. Use Full Self-Driving Beta only if you will pay constant attention to the road, and be prepared to act immediately, especially around blind corners, crossing intersections, and in narrow driving situations. Every driver is responsible for remaining alert and active when using Autopilot and must be prepared to take action at any time.

As part of receiving FSD Beta, your vehicle has automatically opted into VIN associated telemetry sharing with Tesla, including Autopilot usage data, images and/or video. […]

Your vehicle is running on Tesla Vision! Note that Tesla Vision also includes some temporary limitations, as noted below:

    • Follow distance is limited to 2-7.
    • Autopilot top speed is 80 mph.

How to provide feedback:

    • Press the “Video Record” button on the top bar UI to send an Autopilot Snapshot video clip.
      • Clips are automatically sent to the engineering team. You will not be able to view the clip.
    • You can email your feedback […].
      • In your email please include date, time, location, and if you took an Autopilot Snapshot. This helps us investigate issues, and better understand your feedback.

Thank,

The Tesla Team


I think that’s an excellently worded email impressing caution and attentiveness on anyone using the FSD Beta system. If anyone thinks that isn’t adequate, I’m sorry, but I think you’re loony.

Driving — The car is very good at staying in its lane in all normal conditions so far, surely better than someone learning how to drive and most likely better than me or any other human driver. That’s what it’s really good at, without a doubt. There are certain things that can concern the system and might make it brake for a moment — I will be vigilantly watching for such situations with my foot right next to the pedal and my hands on the wheel. For example, when the road is curving a lot through long, complicated intersections, I assume the system could run into problems. We’ll see.

Turning — I’ve made a couple of left turns with FSD Beta activated where you have to get around a curb that sticks out quit far. As a driver, you have to learn to curve around those in the right way and it can be challenging even for a human. The FSD Beta system made those turns, but it was a little jerky at parts of the turn, and, frankly, it’s a little freaky to watch the steering wheel rapidly adjusting itself to make slight modifications in its turning angle. I assume that there are situations where the system also brakes a little bit on turns like this, so I don’t intend to let the car make any such turns with cars behind me until I’m convinced it can execute them smoothly and without other drivers potentially being thrown off by it. Perhaps the system is ready now, but I need to observe more. Like I said, it is a bit like a teenager just learning to drive. The nice thing is that you can switch between supervising (with beads of sweat dripping down your forehead) or driving by yourself any time you want. You don’t have to just hope that the young driver is going to smoothly get through a difficult situation if one pops up.

In a couple of other turning incidents, the car took the turn faster than I would. In fact, in both cases, it decided that it hadn’t gotten a bit ahead of what it felt comfortable with and it disengages Autopilot. That was a surprise, but I simply took over and waited a moment to engage it again. Yes, it’s true — FSD Beta would not get 100 and would not qualify to get FSD Beta. In fact, my safety score dropped today after having to use the brake pedal on the last drive. I’m now at an average of 99 (despite only being down 0.2% on “Hard Braking” and 0.1% on “Aggressive Turning” across the whole period of September 25 to October 11). I got a 4.5% reduction from Hard Braking on my last drive.

Stopping — This is a pet peeve of mine and I would say most defensive drivers: many people drive fast up to a stop (red light, stop sign, etc.) and then put on the brakes rather hard. The nice thing about a Tesla and nearly every other EV is that you can let off the accelerator pedal at the right time and the car with smoothly brake just using the regenerative braking (not the brake pedal/brake pads). It will do this not too fast and not too slow. In fact, this “one-pedal driving” is often one of people’s favorite features of EV ownership. In order to get a score of 100 on Tesla’s Safety Score system, as far as I could tell, you couldn’t touch the brake pedal to brake — you had to fully use the regen braking (down to the point of 1 or 2 mph or something). The thing I’m experiencing with FSD Beta — and previously experienced with the “Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control (Beta)” that I got several months ago — is that the car waits too long to brake, and then it has to do a “hard brake” rather than just use the regen. That’s not preferred for several reasons — it wastes energy, it’s less safe (even if it is what most people do), and it makes me nervous as bleep. I hope that the system will evolve soon-ish into letting off the accelerator sooner or at least providing better options in the settings for how soon it starts to brake. At the moment, it probably drives like a normal driver, and I don’t like that.

Leaving from a Stop — Sometimes, the car effortlessly leaves from a stop and you wouldn’t know a human wasn’t driving. Sometimes it spends a while creeping and perhaps also rapidly adjusting the steering wheel back and forth as it scans the surroundings and gets ready to proceed. The extra caution is perhaps even beyond a great-grandpa level, which can be a little irritating and even concerning, and could surely piss off impatient drivers behind you — but it’s learning. And, basically, it’s just being extra extra safe. This is especially the case when looking to turn right or left after a stop sign or red light, because there’s often a bit of extra space beyond where the official stopping point is and humans typically roll through that before stopping. Also, sometimes it’s just easier for a human to scan far down a perpendicular road they’re approaching before getting to the stop. I’m not clear yet, at a stop, who has the technical advantage when it comes to checking the cross-streets. Naturally, this is an area where I’ll keep watching very closely to try to see how good the car is and how far and well it can see.

Going through a Parking Lot — I wasn’t sure if the car would even drive through a large shopping center parking lot, but it will. It’s quite good at it, but there are issues. I was lucky enough to get an interesting edge case right away. A lady decided to cross the street in front of me at a true turtle’s pace (actually, turtles move faster) while looking at her cell phone, and then she stood on the side not fully across the street for a bit. The car stopped and would not proceed even as she was standing on the edge of the road. I would have just driven across into the other lane to pass her with a good buffer in between since no cars were anywhere nearby. I’m curious how the car would have responded if she had stayed there longer, but based on my experience with Smart Summon, the car would slowly start to creep around her.

Speaking of that … as you know, there are sometimes stop signs in parking lots, and those stop signs can be right before and after medians. Well, that was the case with one in which the Tesla decided it needed to spend a while cautiously creeping forward before it could safely proceed. If there were cars behind me, I would have disengaged, but without having to do that, I could see that it worked fine an was just being careful and would make its ways forward after acting like a 15 year old who just got their learner’s permit. Fine, but it needs to learn more.

The last instance going through the parking lot is where I finally disengaged. It’s Florida, so people just cross wherever they want and often don’t even care to pay attention to whether or not you’ll hit them. In this case, I was approaching a few people crossing at angles at different points in the road. The first lady was indeed paying attention and couldn’t tell at first if we’d stop for her (I couldn’t tell if the car would either). It did stop, but was a little twitchy and stopped later than I would have stopped. The lady nicely made eye contact and I tried to nicely wave her to go ahead and cross in front of us. She was too wise for that and decided to cross behind. After all, when a Florida driver is a bit twitchy behind the wheel, even if he and his wife look friendly, probably best to be cautious. Good thinking, lady. At that point, I decided to disengage rather than leave the car, the remaining pedestrians, and me to weave through efficiently on the way to Target.

Those are my first impressions. I’m sure I’ll have more to share before too long. The best summary I can come up with: it’s like monitoring a teenager or perhaps full adult who recently got their learner’s permit, and you should definitely be vigilant and ready to disengage and take over at any point.

I’ll just close with a statement from David Havasi, who got the update overnight as well and tested it out a bit this morning: “It is… assertive. Diligence rules the day. It’s like piloting a stagecoach that’s being pulled by Seabiscuit. You got to keep your hands on those reins for sure.”

Here are also some tweets from this morning on this topic:

 

 
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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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