A few safe Tesla owners selected to share testing of "Full Self-Driving" beta including new driver-monitored city street navigation
Above photo is my screenshot of James Locke's video. I'd encourage all volunteer #FSDBeta drivers to listen to this Autonocast podcast's words of extreme caution, and this one filled with alternative perspectives. In my opinion, something bad happening could set driver-assist technology back industry-wide for years, and that would be unfortunate, given the 38,000 deaths in motor vehicle crashes per year in the US alone. For casual readers just looking for a brief peek at the new UI, check this video. If you'd like to skip the full story and jump right ahead to the growing library of videos, they're right here below.
On Thursday October 22nd, something very big happened here in the US. For the first time, what Tesla calls FSD (Full Self Driving), but what I'd call advanced driver-assist, was sent to a select few Tesla owners who are able to use this new 4D software rewrite on public roads. They all had to have the latest HW3 (Hardware 3) FSD computer hardware in their S/X/3/Y. They are also permitted to share their experiences freely, using social media and YouTube videos. About a dozen drivers in all, these United States drivers are mostly bloggers, vloggers and influencers who are generally pro-Tesla. It's my understanding that they each had to opt-in to be test drivers of sorts, reviewing the beta agreement and release notes. I have HW3, but I won't be getting access to this code until it goes public, perhaps as early as the end of this year, according to Tesla.
As has always been the case, any Tesla driver assist technologies can be easily overridden at any time, just by turning the wheel, tapping the brake pedal, or tapping the control stalk up, done, you're instantly back in control. What this also means is the technology is generally quite a bit less scary than it appears on camera, with the driver absolutely able to take control at any moment. If the human misbehaves and becomes inattentive to warnings to keep your hands on the wheel, the system disengages. If the FSD can't handle a situation, it beeps loudly and disengages. Currently, the human driver has to be ready to intervene at all times.
As you watch these videos, notice the small blue steering wheel image at the top left of the screen. That means the car is handling the driving (wheel turning, braking, accelerating) at that moment, and if this wheel image turns grey and you hear a beep, that means the driver has taken over control.
Tesla appropriately provides stern warnings about the driver's responsibilities, I've highlighted the particularly important part:
Full Self-Driving is in early limited 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 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 in limited Beta only if you will pay constant attention to the road, and be prepared to act immediately, especially around blind corners, crossings, intersections, and in narrow driving situations.
Whether it was appropriate for Tesla to push this beta code out is something I'll let you be the judge of. This article is really just a collection of some of the earliest examples of this technology on public roads that we've ever seen in the hands of private owners, for you to see for yourself.
Depending upon how this early roll-out goes, Tesla plans to push these capabilities to more Tesla owners in the coming weeks. I feel they may be pushing a bit too fast though, given human's propensity to show off and push the limits, endangering themselves and others for likes and views. I hope I'm wrong, and that these initial beta testers smooth out the rough edges before the rest of us have get these capabilities.
For a little perspective on where I'm coming from with my thoughts on all this, a quick look at my personal history. Having tackled a 5 hour drive from Ithaca NY to Wethersfield CT on nearly a monthly basis from 1989 to 1994, I thought a lot about anything that could enhance my safety on those long lonely drives in my Honda Civic.
1990 - I was a graduate student doing visual perception research. I vividly recall thinking about how cool it would be to try to write a thesis on driver assist technologies including cameras to view tenth-mile markers along many highways, and how the basics of human visual perception could be applied to driver assist technology. This included a lot of time studying retinal flow and motion parallax, published here.
Soon, my career took a sharp turn toward IT and away from finishing my PhD. But here I am, nearly 3 decades later, still thinking about this technology, especially after getting our family's Tesla Model 3 22 months ago. The excitement of seeing one's dreams come true is hard to capture, let me just say a bit of my excitement comes across in many of my 4K Tesla videos of driver assist features as they've trickled over time into my electric vehicle via regular, over-the-air software updates.
Caution is Warranted
2011 - I remember attending VMworld 2012 and hearing 3 researchers, 1 of them from Google, presenting some of the challenges involved in their self-driving car plans, complete with a car that drove out right on-stage. The idea was and still is to reduce the crazy high fatality rate of human drivers.
2016 - I was in Mountain View California and found myself behind a Google self-driving car, but the windows were so dark I couldn't see whether the safety driver or the car was doing the driving. It was still quite something to see.
2017 - I recall seeing Uber self-driving Volvos in the Pittsburgh PA area, always with a safety driver of course. I never had a chance to be a passenger in one, however.
2019 - I remember overhearing two older men talking about self-driving cars at my local supermarket. Every sentence of the leader of the conversation was dripping with utter disdain over any such technology taking any sort of hold in his lifetime.
2020 - I had my car's brain transplant surgery performed on my Model 3, with a keen interest in seeing just how capable a 75 watt liquid-cooled computer in my dashboard could do in driver-assist technologies, especially with family now far-flung (9 hours drives several times a year), and reasons to stay away from airports. Innovations in small computers are right up my alley, just the sort of thing I've covered here at TinkerTry for over 9 years now.
I'm well aware of what a delicate topic "self-driving" is, and how dangerous it can be in the hands of folks interested in how many likes they can generate with provocative videos doing dumb stuff including deliberately tricking the steering wheel into thinking they're driving with both hands on the wheel. Sadly, I think this association with self-driving turns many shoppers away from the entire Tesla brand even as prices fall to the $35K mark that is also the cost of the average American car. I'd just ask that shoppers keep in mind that Tesla crash tests and safety tests globally demonstrate that the Model 3 is the safest car. Also note that buyers can opt-out of buying FSD from Tesla, but you still get lane-keeping and traffic aware cruise control down to 0 mph. Also, there are now Tesla alternatives, including the new Ford Mustang Mach-E and VW ID.4 EVs. Despite somewhat less efficient powertrains and fewer charging stations, it's a wonderful thing that more EV choices are arriving, especially in 2021 and beyond. I'm very much looking forward to witnessing this industry's growth, which is consistent with what has been Tesla's mission all along, to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Keep in mind there are over a million Tesla vehicles on the road, and over 500,000 of them are the mass market Model 3. Some portion of thse owners have paid additionally for the FSD feature set, and also had Tesla install their latest FSD Computer known as HW3 if it wasn't already in their car at delivery, see also my upgrade story.
I made the deliberate and risky decision to invest in then-more-affordable Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self Driving capabilities. It wasn't without extensive conversations with my wife about promises to always be concerned with my own safety first-and-foremost, far beyond any desire to satisfy my scientific curiosity.
I'm also well aware that human lives are at state here, and that NHTSA is carefully watching these early days of a very public beta rollout.
I knew full well that my investment was really a risky bet that Tesla would eventually roll out all of the promised features listed here:
- Traffic-Aware Cruise Control: Matches the speed of your car to that of the surrounding traffic
- Autosteer: Assists in steering within a clearly marked lane, and uses traffic-aware cruise control
Full Self-Driving Capability
- Navigate on Autopilot (Beta): Actively guides your car from a highway’s on-ramp to off-ramp, including suggesting lane changes, navigating interchanges, automatically engaging the turn signal and taking the correct exit
- Auto Lane Change: Assists in moving to an adjacent lane on the highway when Autosteer is engaged
- Autopark: Helps automatically parallel or perpendicular park your car, with a single touch
- Summon: Moves your car in and out of a tight space using the mobile app or key
- Smart Summon: Your car will navigate more complex environments and parking spaces, maneuvering around objects as necessary to come find you in a parking lot.
- Traffic and Stop Sign Control (Beta): Identifies stop signs and traffic lights and automatically slows your car to a stop on approach, with your active supervision
- Autosteer on city streets
The currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous. The activation and use of these features are 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. As these self-driving features evolve, your car will be continuously upgraded through over-the-air software updates.
Autosteer on city streets
There is far more detail on each feature at this Tesla page, above is just a small excerpt to help your understanding of what this article is highlighting. The very new feature that Tesla calls Autosteer on city streets is what the many videos below are mostly focused on, in conjunction with recent advancements in traffic light, stop sign, and speed limit detection. Lane changes have been around for well over a year, but were previously only automated on the highway, and only intended for use on the highway.
It's a rather bold thing to do for Tesla to decide to not only get rid of their PR department recently, then go ahead with deploying this beta code to a select few careful drivers without the usual non-disclosure agreements. So this is very much a public beta, and this speaks to just how very confident Tesla seems to be. Again, rather bold.
Based on watching many of these videos, in my personal opinion, I feel that this extreme confidence is somewhat unfounded. I have concerns over just how wrong things could go if just one bad incident happens, which could very well delay the aggressive roll-out by weeks, months, or even years should somebody actually be harmed or worse during these non-employee, non-monitored tests on public roads.
In all of my driving videos, you will see:
- Hands on the wheel
- Cameras mounted out of my way
- Disengagement whenever risk appears to be elevated
I don't hesitate to disengage any driver assist whenever I feel there is an increased risk of something bad happening. In other words, if the car starts behaving in a way I wouldn't, I disengage. This is easily done by nudging the wheel, pressing the brake, or tapping up on the stalk mounted to the right of the steering wheel. I'm a responsible driver, with a focus on risk reduction in everything I do in my home, in my career, and in my driving.
Impressed, concerned, excited.
I'm impressed with the videos overall, with the ability to drive without any centerline markings on suburban streets being completely new, as are turns in city streets. I'm also not at all surprised at the many little somewhat scary incidents that are seen in the videos where the driver has to take over.
I'll try to reserve concluding much of anything until the rapid iterations based on a new set of customers spread across the US result in a more fined, smarter, and safer driver-assist by the time I get it on my Model 3. More about how Tesla handles machine learning below.
Added Oct 31 2020.
I've seen numerous arguments expressing concern that the public didn't sign up for these beta tests on public roads, and I get it. There are legal implications.
I'm intentionally avoiding making any conclusions just yet, but I can say that I'm keenly aware that anybody who has no first-hand experience driving with Tesla's driver-assist features is:
- likely to not readily understand what a major leap forward this is in the car's talents since automatic lane changes became available in 2019 in the US.
- likely to be unaware that all Tesla drivers who have experience with Tesla driver assist features become keenly aware of the system's limitations, which makes these beta test drivers a bit safer testing new code than newbies would be.
- likely unaware that it's far more stressful to carefully monitor driver assist features on city and other surface roads than simply driving yourself, and this is the scariest part for me watching these videos.
There is reason for considerable optimism here in that the the improvements over the 10 days since #FSDBeta was released have been quite significant, and it's clear the Tesla team is making good use of the gigabytes of telemetry data from these early testers.
I'm currently cautiously optimistic, and know that we're a long way from being able to relax on city streets anytime soon, with so many legal and societal barriers to get across, even once the technology is truly far better than human drivers, at least in good weather (no snow, ice, or fog on any of the Tesla's 8 cameras).
What genuinely excites me are the prospects of safer roads for all of us, but getting there will be a long journey. The ability for a drunk driver to affect the quality of life for another responsible citizen is something that has affected me and my family on several occasions, and I suspect the same is true for many of you readings this. I'm confident we can do far better in reducing the risk of disability and death when driving, especially with the incredibly prevalent distracted-driving we all witness on a scarily-frequent basis.
Enough of me and my thoughts, now onward to the early beta drivers out there and their thoughts and experiences...
There are many more short video clips on Twitter already, along with links to many more full length videos, and they're all under this handy Twitter List called FSD Beta Members created by @PureTesla.
You also find even more tweets under the hashtag #FSDBeta.
The first video below from Tesla Raj was the very first video I spotted showing autosteer on city streets. It's both fun and quite unnerving, watching the driver and passenger's excited reactions to their very first city-street turn.
Always entertaining with a style all his own, check out Tesla's reaction video as a passenger.
Predictably, the rougher edges of the beta started showing up soon enough, with other folks very candidly sharing their experiences too, read onward...
A large library of short clips in Rhode Island including very tight roads in Newport, and in the Boston Massachusetts area. She's a big Tesla personality on Twitter for years, and also drives a Model 3 on CrossClimate+ tires too. Her risk sure seems higher to me, given the narrow streets she's testing on, thankfully at lower speeds.
See also @kimpaquette's #FSDBeta tweets.
Side-view mirrors auto-tuck in for this very-tight squeeze.
Quite entertaining and funny, as Zeb picks up his friend and drives around aimlessly, but carefully.
Below, you'll see a new camera view layout, way to go Zeb, I think he's nailed it. He also has a post-production split screen view that makes comparison of older and newer software code behavior much easier to see.
I've never seen anything quite like this perspective, and pretty amazing that the drone/quadcopter doesn't hit the many wires criss-crossing the streets. There's also a remarkable number of low-speed close calls and fails in this video.
While he doesn't have access to the beta in Canada, he does a nice job of giving commentary on others who do in this great compilation.
Several more videos of FSD at his channel.
An area known for lovely scenery, right between San Francisco and LA. Not nearly as difficult to navigate than the city streets of Boston or San Francisco, but very impressive nonetheless. Great use of multiple camera views too.
You can see Sofiaan drive through the downtown streets of San Luis Obispo CA here.
I was actually watching this late night on TV, using my TiVo EDGE remote and it's YouTube app. To my surprise I was prompted to use the directional arrows on the TiVo remote to have a look around, and it worked. Also interesting that the video editor managed to get the Tesla's 15" screen shot shown in a fixed location, using some sort of editing overlay technique.
The FSD computer in each Tesla runs two AIR engines, Tesla Dojo is ingesting fleet data and handling the AI back at the "mothership" ultimately resulting in a safer and better firmware to send to the fleet of Teslas FSD computers when it's deemed safe to do so. The iteration is fast, with most Tesla owners getting 1 to 2 over-the-air software updates per month, with many of them including better Autopilot behavior. For this FSD beta that's only a few days old, already a new version has been pushed out.
Director of AI at Tesla. Previously a research scientist at OpenAI and CS PhD student at Stanford.
This is just me giving a safe demonstration of a minor software release that enabled proceed-on-green lights that I had to confirm manually, unless following another car through the intersection.
Free Supercharging: If you find this article of value and decide to order a Tesla, please consider using this ts.la/paul68544 referral link when placing your order so you and I both get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging. If you order Solar, it's a $250 award after system activation.
Disclosure: My family owns no stock in Tesla. Tesla doesn't advertise at TinkerTry, or anywhere else, and this is not a sponsored post. We financed the purchase of two Tesla Model 3s, replacing my 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid in December of 2018 and replacing my wife's 2005 Honda Civic EX in December of 2019. These big moves to an all electric household were an expression of our mutual desire to go green, avoid gasoline, be safe, have fun, and save money in the long run. Mostly for my job, I drive a lot, 25,000 miles in 2019 for example, and I thoroughly enjoy sharing what I've learned with you. I hope you can tell!
Sofiaan Fraval and Paul Braren videos added above along with Whole Mars Catalog tweet appended below.
- Added @dirtytesla retweet below, very kind of Chris. He's invested a huge amount of time testing FSD features, with many videos of his efforts featured on his popular YouTube Channel. He also has a huge outpouring of support from the Tesla community, especially in his ongoing quest to be invited to the #FSDBeta as seen in various tweets.
Added #FSDBeta participant map from @28delayslater, aka Earl of Frunkpuppy:
- Added Tesla Raj 360 video, found I could look around even when watching YouTube from my TiVo EDGE for cable, using the TiVo remote's arrow controls. Nice!
Added Out of Spec Motoring video.
- Added 2 Electrek articles.
- Added Autonocast warning up top.
Opening paragraphs reworded slightly for clarity.
- Added Dr. Know-it-all Knows it all video.
- Added new opening paragraph sentence recommending latest UI advancements in this video.
- Added second impressions of these videos paragraph.
- Added another electrek article.
Added Zeb Hallock's new video with new GoPro view.
Added this autonocast episode.
- Watch Tesla’s FSD beta easily handle obstacles on the side of the road
Oct 26 202-0 by Darryn at Drive Tesla
Not only is the area around the car larger than normal due to several traffic cones beside it, the driver is standing next to the work truck with the door open and another car is approaching from the opposite direction.
- First look at Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta and it looks just insane
Oct 22 2020 by Fred Lambert at electrek
We’ve got our first look at Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Beta software update, as some owners who are testing it are sharing videos, and it looks just insane.
After months of working on a complete core rewrite of its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Package, Tesla has now started its Full Self-Driving Beta rollout.
- Tesla Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta Testers Share Their Thoughts With Me
Oct 24 2020 by Johnna Crider at CleanTechnica
Several of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta testers, who have permission from Tesla to share their experiences with FSD online, shared their thoughts with me on testing Tesla’s newest technological advancement.
- Elon Musk extends thanks to FSD beta testers for giving valuable real-world data
Oct 25 2020 by Maria Merano at Teslarati
Elon Musk has extended his thanks to Tesla owners who received the company’s limited Full Self-Driving beta last week. The information Tesla is gathering from early access FSD beta testers will be invaluable as the company’s AI team continues to enhance and refine the EV automaker’s autonomous driving software.
I found this comment below the above article particularly compelling:
Nils Frederking on Oct 26 2020:
Generally neural networks have the ability to replicate things they were trained with, for example there is a software StyleGAN 2 which is able to create pictures of human faces (humans that do not exist) and you cannot tell whether it is synthesized or real. You find that on Youtube. I was very impressed and after I saw that I find it much more likely that neural nets will allow for autonomous driving. My impression is that Tesla has everything in place now and just needs billions of miles of training and eliminating the weirdest corner cases. It will need some time, as the amount of training needed for neural nets is insanely high, but Tesla has extreme computing power with the dojo supercomputer and access to a massive amount of date because the autopilot sensors are build-in in every Tesla.
- Oct 29 #205: Why Tesla's "Full Self-Driving" Beta Is Dangerous
Oct 29 2020 by Edward Niedermeyer
Tesla's deployment of a "limited beta" version of its "Full Self-Driving" software to public roads raises a number of important issues around how and why AV developers test safely on public roads. With Kirsten just getting back from vacation, Alex and Ed walk her through the most immediate concerns... plus, Alex shares what it's like to be trained as a professional AV safety driver.
This podcast above is likely not something any of the FSD Beta drivers wish to listen to, but I think it's an important, somber reminder of the responsibility they're taking on. The discussion has some very strong points to make. You can listen for youself on the Overcast player with speed controls here.
- Watch Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta’s performance from the sky with scary near-miss
Oct 30 2020 by Fred Lambert at electrek
As noted by our sister site DroneDJ, the self-flying capability of the Skydio drone pretty much outshines Tesla’s FSD in this video.
Interestingly, we previously reported that several early Tesla Autopilot engineers ended up working on Skydio’s drone.
- Tesla pushes new Full Self-Driving Beta update, Elon Musk says could slash interventions by a third
Oct 31 2020 by Fred Lambert at electrek
All Tesla related articles:
All Tesla related videos:
- Mt. Washington Auto Road in an electric vehicle is a beautiful, joyful and thrilling experience!
Sep 21 2020
- EV Club of CT's Barry Kresch discusses CHEAPR rebates, Westport CT's Model 3 Police Car, and Jim Motavalli's upcoming interview with Jay Leno
Sep 15 2020
- How to use iOS/Android devices as “Stats for nerds” gauges in your Tesla Model 3 with an easy DIY OBDLink MX+ install
May 18 2020
- Featured on Tech Breakfast Podcast on May 04 2020 "Digital Transformation - Telsa/Elon - Fairphone - Intel - Rockets"
May 04 2020
- Close 4K look at Tesla "Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control (Beta)" used safely on public roads
Apr 26 2020
- Model 3 HW3 brain replacement caused temporary amnesia but Tesla quickly restored settings, Autopilot improvement demonstrated with new FSD Computer
Feb 27 2020
- Westport Connecticut Police first to use Model 3's big battery for siren, radio, and lights with some Tesla cooperation, replacing 10 mpg gas cruiser with stealthy, efficient EV
Feb 23 2020
- Affordable and convenient way to get Tesla cables off the garage floor, trip-free charging from above!
Feb 01 2020
- Michelin CrossClimate+ 18" tires for Tesla Model 3 are better in snow & rain, protect rims, and cost less
Jan 31 2020
- Things I noticed charging my Tesla Model 3 LR AWD at the very first V3 Supercharger in the Northeastern United States
Jan 29 2020
- Featured on "Home Gadget Geeks" Episode #429 "Paul Braren Podcasts from the Tesla 3 and Buys Another"
Jan 12 2020
- Design and specification changes between Tesla Model 3 2018 and 2020 model years and between LR AWD and SR+ models
Dec 24 2019
- First year and 25,000 miles of Tesla Model 3 ownership went very well, far exceeding our expectations
Dec 23 2019
- Replaced my failed gas water heater with a much more efficient Rheem hybrid electric with WiFi, its quiet heat pump is also dehumidifying and cooling my basement
Jun 23 2019
- April's Drive Electric Earth Day moved to Celebrate West Hartford Day on June 1 2019, my Electric Vehicle and I will be there, ask me anything!
May 31 2019
- Tesla's new $35K Model 3 blows Leaf (and Bolt) away in price, range, and safety, so will sub-$40K Model Y Crossover SUV
Mar 03 2019
- Charging your Tesla Model 3 at home and on the road, with details to discuss with your electrician
Jan 30 2019
- Best road-tested Tesla Model 3 accessories for all-weather long-distance safety and convenience
Jan 05 2019
- Experiencing the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch from 7 miles away, the most powerful rocket to launch since Apollo 17 in 1973!
Feb 05 2018
- My hometown of Wethersfield Connecticut - settled in 1634 - nestled right between Boston and New York City
Dec 23 2015
- Elon Musk's Powerwall, time-shifting the energy from that handy fusion reactor in the sky
May 04 2015
The FSD betas are improving shockingly fast— Whole Mars Catalog (@WholeMarsBlog) October 25, 2020
It almost seems like someone is fixing issues on the fly, and the time between new builds is very short.
Tesla May Be Working on Powerful New Radar & Ultrasonic Sensors, Says Hackerhttps://t.co/6WPBGpHCT7— Vincent 🚀🟠 (@vincent13031925) October 26, 2020