Tesla Full Self-Driving Update: What You Need To Know
The much-anticipated move toward fully autonomous driving is still a work in progress.
With Tesla's reputation for innovation and its owners' tribal devotion to its cars, the stakes are high for the next steps in pursuing autonomous technology long promised for Tesla's family of all-electric vehicles.
Recent significant price hikes in the systems being developed to eventually offer fully autonomous driving, coupled with a series of lawsuits related to the semi-autonomous capabilities, have kept the brand in national headlines.
However, Tesla continues to work on further developments in technology in its quest to achieve fully autonomous driving. For owners looking forward to a not-so-far-off future of totally hands-free driving (or those intrigued by how this might translate to other carmakers' offerings), here's the current picture.
What Does Full Self-Driving Mean for Tesla Owners?
Full Self-Driving (FSD) capability is the name for Tesla's combined suite of semi-autonomous driving tools and technologies, which includes features from self-parking to semi-automated highway driving. However, the name is arguably misleading, as FSD does not allow fully autonomous driving.
Tesla has come a long way since its original autopilot was introduced as a standard feature on all Tesla vehicles in early 2019. Despite its advances, the system is still incapable of true automated driving. Owners are still required to be physically present and active, with their hands on the wheel at all times, and they must monitor the remote movements of their cars in parking lots. Drivers should also stay aware of the current local and state laws related to semi-autonomous driving features, to ensure the use of their vehicle's capabilities comply with the pertinent laws.
However, the company and its outspoken CEO, Elon Musk, continue to suggest those fully-automated capabilities are just over the horizon. This messaging has prompted further debates amongst legislators at the state and federal levels regarding the need to regulate or forbid certain autonomous capabilities in addition to a host of class action lawsuits pertaining to FSD's capabilities.
Tesla's nominal FSD capability is also costly, with owners now charged $15,000 outright or via monthly subscription fees to test out the ever-expanding self-driving systems on the company's behalf.
How Will Full Self-Driving Work — And How Much Will It Cost?
Earlier vehicles built between September 2014 and October 2016 feature the first-generation Autopilot hardware, which makes them ineligible for retrofits. But most more recent Tesla automobiles are eligible for Basic Autopilot, Enhanced Autopilot or even Full Self-Driving software upgrades, provided they have the necessary hardware.
Tesla recently raised the price of its FSD feature package to $15,000, following quick increases from $10,000 to $12,000 earlier in 2022. Enhanced Autopilot, by comparison, is $6,000. Some 100,000 owners have already bought into the higher FSD package, either outright during their vehicle purchase or through a monthly subscription (which is $99 for those who already have Enhanced Autopilot, $199 for those without). Future updates are also free for those who buy the entire system.
Basic Autopilot includes traffic-sensitive cruise control and automated steering within a lane, features that both have since become common in many other brands.
Enhanced Autopilot steps up the capabilities and works best in an interstate environment where there's no construction, including automatic lane changes and guidance on navigating interchanges. It also offers parallel or perpendicular self-parking capability. With the Summon feature, drivers can remotely move their cars in and out of tight parking spots, while Smart Summon will even allow the car to navigate around objects in a parking lot to meet the driver.
FSD includes all of basic and enhanced autopilot's abilities, plus claims to improve capability to bring the vehicle to a stop at traffic signals and directional signs. Tesla has stated that the most recent update to the FSD software enhances pedestrian and animal detection, smoothes out the car's driving in turns and introduces a new creep-into-intersection function, to more safely deal with oncoming traffic.
Tesla says future FSD functionalities will include automatic steering on city streets, which has been shown during test drives as a promising, but still unperfected (and sometimes troublesome) technology. As Tesla explains on its website, Autopilot in its variations, including FSD, "does not turn a Tesla into a self-driving car nor does it make a car autonomous." Drivers need to keep their hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and follow warnings, otherwise the system may turn off for the duration of the trip.
Nearly all of the functionalities require constant monitoring and inputs in order to remain active, which is still a far cry from the notion of 100% automated motoring.
"Full autonomy will be dependent on achieving reliability far in excess of human drivers as demonstrated by billions of miles of experience, as well as regulatory approval, which may take longer in some jurisdictions," the company notes on its website.
Tesla Is Ordered to Issue a Recall
In September 2022, Tesla was sued by a group of drivers who claimed the company was defrauding customers by overstating the capabilities of the FSD technology. The lawsuits are still in litigation and Tesla's attorneys are vigorously fighting against the allegations.
Based on a lawsuit filed by the California DMV, which criticized Tesla's alleged misrepresentation of its self-driving capabilities, a newly passed bill in the California state legislature specifically targets allegations that Tesla and other carmakers oversell the capabilities of current semi-autonomous driving systems through branding and marketing. Officials claim these efforts have prompted many owners to believe they have self-driving automobiles when they do not, at least yet — allegedly causing hundreds of crashes, some of which were fatal.
The bill even codifies a new word for the phenomenon, "autonowashing", suggesting that manufacturers have purposely misled customers regarding the not-quite-autonomous technology built into their vehicles. The measure requires automakers to clarify for purchasers the limitations of autonomous driving systems and desist from implying in advertising or branding that the cars are truly autonomous.