After a long wait, and several delays, Tesla has finally released its Full Self-Driving Beta to a much larger group of drivers. While the exact number is not known, it’s expected that over 1,000 new testers will have the software by the end of the day.
Early this morning (or late last night, depending on your timezone), the update was pushed out to drivers that pressed the Full Self-Driving Beta request button and managed to get a 100% on their Tesla Safety Score over the last two weeks. FSD Beta adds the ability for the car to make turns, navigate roundabouts, and automatically follow your route on city streets; the normal version of Tesla’s Autopilot will only keep you in your lane, manage lane changes, manage your speed, stop for traffic lights and stop signs, and (for owners that purchased the FSD package) automatically follow your route on highways.
The company released its first version of FSD Beta to a small group of testers in late October 2020, almost exactly a year ago. Those testers were briefly under NDA, but Tesla decided to modify that shortly after the release to allow them to share their experiences on social media. In its initial stages, it was shockingly bad. Testers shared videos showing their car swerving all over the road, some showed a few close calls with parked cars. However, with each update, small improvements started to appear. Turns started to get smoother. Roundabouts became less terrifying. Slowly, it developed into what it is today- it requires your undivided attention just in case, but manages most daily driving just fine.
With the introduction of these new testers, Tesla can expect hundreds of thousands of new disengagement reports to help train the system. Every time a tester hits the brakes, turns the steering wheel to “break out” of Autopilot, or presses the “report issue” button, a small clip gets sent to Tesla for analysis. Over time, these help the company identify problem areas and make changes accordingly.
While FSD Beta was only pushed to drivers with a 100% safety score this time around, in the coming weeks this is expected to expand to include drivers with 99%, then 98%, etc., though the company hasn’t said what the bare minimum score required is. As videos from new testers slowly trickle out onto the internet, it’s hard to not smile while looking back at how far this software has come.
Now, to be clear, the FSD software is far from perfect. And, as a current beta tester, I know that a tester’s first release night is very exciting. The first drive is always exciting, but it takes a few days to really get a solid idea of how good it actually is, so expect a lot of positive reviews from first-time testers for a little while. In my opinion, give it a few days for the hype to die down. After that, some really good information about the state of FSD Beta should start to appear. I look forward to seeing where it goes from here. Maybe a future with autonomous vehicles isn’t too far away.