My First 15 Days with Tesla’s “Feature Complete” Full Self Driving.
Background: I am still nuts about my Tesla Model 3 after a little over two years and 56,213 miles. I had only one significant warrantee-covered service call for a squeaky front suspension part. I love the super smooth almost neck-snapping acceleration. I love not emitting a toxic cloud for the driver to breathe while he or she is waiting behind me in traffic or at a drive-through. I love doing my small part not emitting global warming CO2. I love not having to go to gas stations or have my oil changed. It’s a great looking car and a blast to drive. My favorite is passing cars on two-lane roads … you only need a few hundred yards.
What is “feature complete” Full Self Driving (FSD)?’
Every Tesla comes with smart cruise control with autosteer on any road that has yellow lines in the center. I paid $6,000 for FSD when I bought my Tesla Model 3 Long Range in 2018. Now, if you purchase a Tesla, you must pay $10,000 to get FSD.
Since I bought the car, I have had FSD on limited-access roads:
That means passing slower-moving cars, automatic lane changes using the turn signals, and navigating through even complex big city interchanges from on-ramp to off-ramp to any location in your navigation on Interstate highways and four-lane roads without cross traffic.
Feature-complete FSD, if it works, is the nirvana of automated automobile navigation. Tesla is the only company that is putting this kind of automation in the hands of a significant number of customers.
How Does FC FSD Work?
I put my desired destination into the Tesla’s navigation (NAV). I back my car out of the garage onto my street and wait for the steering wheel icon to appear (just like I used to do for the old autosteer on a road with yellow lines in the middle). I pull the right steering wheel stalk down twice. Then the car automatically drives to the location in my NAV, whether it’s the nearby Walgreens or Zion National Park 45 miles away.
It is touted as “FSD Beta,” an imperfect version of FSD that needs a lot of monitoring. That means that you can’t curl up in the back seat. You have to keep one hand giving a little torque on the steering wheel and you have to be ready to intervene in an instant if it screws up.
If you don’t give a little torque on the steering wheel for longer than 30 seconds, just like you did for the old autosteer, it warns you with progressively stronger signals until it decides you aren’t conscious and pulls over to the side of the road and stops on its own.
Also, if you don’t keep your eyes on the road, even looking to the navigation screen to your right for too long, you get a warning to pay attention. (The Model 3 has a cabin camera by the mirror that is watching your face. According to Tesla, that data does not leave the car.)
I would recommend not getting this warning signal frequently. Tesla has been known to yank back the software from drivers who aren’t driving responsibly.
I was able to let it drive my Model 3 from my house in St. George, Utah, 45 miles to Zion National Park with only one slight intervention.
However, my chief editor, Zach Shahan, says it’s so bad in his area that he hardly uses it any more.
For me, after taking Tesla’s infuriating Safety Test for 5 weeks and figuring out how to get my 96 score up to 99, I was finally one of a privileged few (thousand?) to be to able download the software that makes feature-complete FSD work. So, now, as a retired techno nerd with time on my hands, I use FSD whenever I can. That means I use it whenever it works.
I don’t know how many of us have paid the $6,000 or $10,000, and I don’t know how many of those have taken the time and had the discipline to take and pass Tesla’s test with a score of 98 or above.
What Does FSD Do Well?
It no longer requires any lines on the road to autosteer.
It also avoids big trucks and trailers parked on your side of the road
It almost always gets into the proper turn lane before turning. (Editor’s note: That has not been the case for me. —Zach)
As I reported earlier, it drove the 45 miles from St. George to Zion National Park with only one intervention.
It usually does right turns and turns controlled by traffic signals very well. For example, when it makes a left turn with left turn arrow, even when it’s in the second lane from left, it keeps the car in the correct lane perfectly. It will also do right turns on red
When Does FSD Fail?
Note: When the software fails, it fails consistently, so you quickly learn when to turn it off or be prepared to intervene immediately.
Often, when there is a car behind you when turning, FSD will be so slow that the car behind you will become very impatient.
It is always too slow when making unprotected (no traffic light with green arrow) left turns with traffic if you have a car behind you. Also, once it finally does proceed, it may be too slow to avoid late-arriving cross traffic. In both cases, you can intervene by pressing on the accelerator pedal to get it to get its a_ _ in gear.
A couple of crazy things: When I am making the first right turn coming out of my neighborhood in St. George, UT, it stops 25 ft before the stop sign and then creeps forward at a snail’s pace (presumably peering out for cross traffic) before finally making the turn very slowly. I don’t think it does this for any other right turn.
Much worse: If I am turning left, it makes the first turn just fine, but on the following right turn it ignores the stop sign and roars on to the busy highway! Are you kidding me? There was a small tree blocking the stop sign, which I cut down, but it still ignores the stop sign repeatedly. It doesn’t ignore stop signs for right turns at any other location that I know of.
Zach Shahan alerted me to a camera icon in the upper right hand screen corner where you can report bad behavior. However, I don’t know exactly what it captures or if anyone looks at it. On the turn where it stops 25 ft before the stop sign, it’s quite easy to touch the icon. When the car is running a stop sign, I am more concerned with safety than touching an icon. Zach was among the first group to get the software with a safety score of 100. The software was at version 10.2 at that time. By the time I got my score up to 99, it was at version 10.5. I read that version 10.6 is starting to go out now, but I haven’t been able to download it yet.
Bottom line: Tesla is constantly improving the software. However, whether they will respond to a specific act of bad behavior is yet to be determined.
Hopefully as new versions are released we will see the mistakes become fewer and fewer.
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