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Tesla FSD (Beta) graphical interface. Left turn at a busy intersection. Note: green left turn signal, projected path, lane markers, red curb, and cars with tail lights. Saint George, Utah. December 21, 2021. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

Autonomous Vehicles

Warning: Don’t Get Your Tesla FSD (Beta) Privileges Revoked!

Background: My wife and I have been driving our Tesla Model 3 for ~2.3 years. We commute 1500 miles between our homes in Utah and Wisconsin with our dog and everything we’ll need for 6 months, including carrying two big ebikes on the back. We’ve made a 2200 mile cross-country run between North Carolina and Utah also carrying everything. I commute up a long winding mountain canyon to the ski resort where I teach on snow-covered roads in heavy snow. Our Tesla Model 3 is our only car for local driving as well as for the cross country trips. We bought our car on October 22, 2019, so it’s now been 2 years 3 months, and the odometer reads 58,679 miles. And we still love the car as much as the day we purchased it.

 Tesla FSD and FSD (Beta) Background

Every Tesla comes with Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC) and Autosteer. The base version of Autosteer only works if there are painted lines on the road. If you paid $6,000, $10,000, or now $12,000 (depending on when you made your purchase), you also got something called Full Self Driving. The most important driving features of FSD include automatic navigation on limited-access roads, automatic lane changes, and automatic passing of slower cars.

If you paid for FSD, downloaded the latest version of the software, and passed Tesla’s Safety Test, you got something Tesla now calls FSD (Beta). FSD (Beta) adds Autosteer on any road and the ability to navigate on city streets.

Tesla is the first car company to put fully automated navigation in the hands of at least 12,000 of its regular customers. In principle, FSD (Beta) will drive your car automatically from your current location (in front of your driveway or the Walmart parking lot) to any location you pick or enter into your navigation. However, it won’t back you out of your garage (I expect that to come soon) or pull you into a parking spot at Walmart. FSD (Beta) is absolutely fabulous, except when it’s not. It will make some complex city and country driving trips without intervention. It will make many more with a few predictable interventions. I have obsessively used the software for 43 days now, and for ~2500 miles without incident, so I know it can be done safely. In previous articles, I’ve discussed what it does amazingly well and when it fails. (See here, here, and here.)

Note: I’ve previously used Tesla’s term “Feature Complete” FSD, but Tesla now uses the term FSD (Beta) — I presume since there are obviously features to be added in the future.

My ebike, our Tesla Model 3, and me at Zion National Park, Utah. January 10, 2022. Photo by Mary Hasler.

Warning! Don’t Get Your Tesla FSD (Beta) Privileges Revoked!

As stated previously, aside from having to pay several thousand dollars for FSD, you now have to take an infuriating Safety Test to get FSD (Beta). It took me 5 weeks to pass the test. Furthermore, Tesla is threatening to take the privilege away if you don’t follow all the rules of use.

5 New Forced Autopilot Disengagements and Your FSD (Beta) Privileges Will Be Revoked

If you got the latest software download of 2021.44.30.5 with FSD (Beta) version 8.1.1, in the release notes you got the following warning: If you get 5 new Forced Autopilot Disengagements, your FSD (Beta) privileges will be revoked!

What is a Forced Autopilot Disengagement?

Forced Autopilot Disengagement A: In order to continue using Autosteer — also FSD and FSD (Beta) — you have to apply a small amount of torque to the steering wheel at various intervals. If you are distracted and don’t do this for more than ~20 seconds, the screen starts giving you a blue pulsing warning. After ~2 minutes, you get a big pulsing red steering wheel warning. Shortly afterwards, the Autosteer, FSD, or FSD (Beta) shuts off for the remainder of the drive. That is called a “Forced Autopilot Disengagement.” If this happens on a limited access highway, you need wait for the next exit, come to a full stop, and put the car in park before your privileges are restored. Now, five of these and you lose your FSD (Beta) privileges.

Solution: You must pay attention at all times and keep putting a small amount of torque on the steering wheel.

Forced Autopilot Disengagement B {80 mph Maximum Speed Limit with FSD (Beta)}: It is quite common in the US West to have speed limits of 80 mph or even higher. Let’s say you have your speed set to 80 mph in an 80 mph speed zone and you want to speed up by pressing the accelerator to quickly pass a slower moving car. If you happen to exceed 80 mph, say to only 82 mph, you get Forced Autopilot Disengagement B!

Solution: turn off FSD (Beta) by pulling the right steering wheel stalk up before you increase your speed.

Forced Autopilot Disengagement C (Uncle Elon Looking Over Your Shoulder): With FSD (Beta), if you don’t always keep your eyes on the road, even looking at the navigation screen to your right, down at your phone, or out the window to the left for more than ~10 seconds, you get a warning signal. Very occasionally, it gives you the warning signal even if you are looking at the road. The Model 3 has a cabin camera by the mirror that is watching your face and detects when you are looking away from the road. According to Tesla, that data does not leave the car.

I have never experienced this, but I assume if you ignore the warning and continue looking away from the road for over ~2 min, you will get Forced Disengagement Warning C.

Solution: It’s not too hard when you get the warning to look back at the road

Other Forced Autopilot Disengagements?

Please let me know in the comments bar of this article if there are other forced Autopilot disengagements that I don’t know about.

If You Have 5 Forced Autopilot Disengagements, You Lose Your FSD (Beta) Privileges

If you downloaded software update 2021.44.30.5 with FSD (Beta) version 8.1.1, you were notified in the Release Notes that the counter for your previous forced Autopilot disengagements has been set to zero, but if you accumulate 5 more forced Autopilot disengagements, your privileges will be revoked. You could have paid $12,000 and taken 5 infuriating weeks like me to pass the safety test and now you’ve lost your ability to use FSD (Beta). I don’t know about you, but if it happens to me, I’m going to freak out! There are no suggestions about maybe allowing you 5 forced Autopilot disengagements per year or what you need to do to have it reinstated. Oh my God, perhaps you will need to pass the safety test again?

Uncle Elon Looking Over Your Shoulder: No Need To Keep Torque On The Steering Wheel

Keeping a small amount of torque on the steering wheel is Tesla’s method of knowing if you are paying attention to the road. It’s only a crude technique since you can text on your phone or read a whole book while tugging on the steering wheel.

The new FSD (Beta) method of knowing whether you are paying attention to the road by using a camera observing your face is a much better way. Certainly, the camera above the steering wheel can tell if you turn your head away from the road. I don’t know if it can detect your eye movement.

That brings up the question? Will Tesla keep the requirement to tug on the steering wheel? It is a big pain in the ass! Since the new camera method is superior, Tesla could remove the steering wheel requirement for all the cars that have the driver-facing camera. There would be a small advantage to having your hands engaged with the steering wheel, but I don’t think that is a compelling reason. Keep an eye on CleanTechnica for further FSD (Beta) developments.

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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.


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