After a month of earning my 2018 Tesla Model 3 Long Range a Safety Score of 99, my FSDBeta (Full Self-Driving Beta) finally arrived on October 29th 2021. It's really a Level 2 autonomy system in its current form, and from the video you'll hear that my co-pilot wife wasn't impressed. But for me, it's awe-inspiring. Sure, feeling the car driving itself is a bit strange, but not scary given the three years of great highway Autosteer that has earned my trust. As Tesla clearly warns, I had to be ready to take over at all times when FSDBeta was engaged. Despite that, I still feel Tesla's generalized approach to teaching computers to handle any road without reliance on map data does feel both promising and scalable. Each input I make as a human is used to teach the fleet to do better next time. I'll get more into how it all works later in this article, enjoy watching the video first. Also try to refrain from forming a fixed opinion based just on this one article or video. This nascent capability will be improving rapidly, and it's currently fair to say that other mass-market automakers such as Ford are struggling to come anywhere near, now delayed into 2022. It will certainly be interesting to see the technology progress. I'm looking forward to reading your comments below this article and/or video below.
As Tesla states:
The currently enabled Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous. 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. As Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving capabilities evolve, your car will be continuously upgraded through over-the-air software updates.
In the 4K video above with my wife as co-pilot, you'll quickly see that having an extra set of eyes sure was helpful, especially for my first and so far only drive with FSDBeta engaged on secondary roads. You'll also hear some of our off-the-cuff candid thoughts during this mostly-mellow 10.39 mile drive late-night drive around town. Hands on the wheel, feet near the pedals.
The various road types we drove on include
- many turns of varying sharpness
- automatic speed choices across railroad tracks and a limited sight-line hill-crest intersection
- moderately steep hills
- nearly simultaneous arrival at a 4-way stop sign intersection
- side streets with no paint markings whatsoever
- navigation behavior near leaf piles and puddles
- a few manual disengagements via brake pedal or steering wheel stalk as needed.
Afterward, you'll hear my short after-drive commentary from my garage immediately after the drive, as we prepared to do a normal road-trip the next day using the excellent-for-years traffic aware cruise control and Autosteer that hasn't been changed by the FSDBeta software stack, at least not yet. It was important to be able to reassure my wife that our planned road trip wouldn't have any additional stress.
For anybody that is thinking of attempting their hand at this beta someday, I'd strongly recommend you watch pilot Chuck Cook's FSDBeta Safety Video - Prospective New FSDBeta Users Please Watch and Share! first.
Narrating while driving isn't easy, and certainly not something I'd want to be doing during a solo drive.
- Rolling Stops
Rolling through stop signs reported via too small "Video Record" button, and when that wasn't pushed, via email, using the same email address that Tesla knows from my Tesla Account.
- Passenger Warning
Witnessing FSDBeta in action isn't generally fun for non-enthusiasts, non-technical passengers to witness, even from the passenger seat. Any passenger seat occupant is going to feel far less in control than the driver. Even more so when any sort of robotic jerky steering wheel motions are felt.
- Steering Wheel Override
I agree with Michael (FSD Beta Tester) that it would be best if TACC (Traffic Aware Cruise Control) disengaged when I use a bit of steering force to break out of Autosteer, at least when not on the highway. It would be one less thing to think about, also known by pilots as cognitive load which adversely affects performance. Have a listen to another excellent episode of Life With Middie where this exact topic is discussed, and other great tips. I'll likely use the foot over brake hover technique on my next drive.
- Beware of Tailgating
Also pointed out in the podcast is tailgating. While I never had anybody tailgating me on this late night drive, if anybody does in the future, I'll be certain to disengage Autopilot to reduce both of our risk of an accident. I would prefer to use the right-stalk instead of the brake pedal for such a situation, to avoid any chance that momentary brake light flash appears to be any sort of brake-check threat. When tailgating goes on for a while, I find a smooth resolution to such situations is to safely turn off where possible using my signals well in advance, letting the aggressor safely pass. I'm never interested in taking any part of a road rage incident.
- Blocked Cameras
There's a challenge with obscured cameras in poor weather that can't be addressed with mere software. Tesla recently added automatic clearing of the three front-facing cameras by using the existing wipers and windshield washer fluid. Darryn John at Drive Tesla Canada writes:
One of the chief concerns among those Canadians surveyed is how self-driving technology will handle the extreme winter conditions, when cameras and sensors can become blocked or obscured by snow and ice, rendering current technology useless.
Canadians are also worried about drivers becoming lazy behind the wheel, with them becoming dependant on the technology and driving skills becoming reduced as a result.
I also think about aggressive acceleration on ice. Tesla traction control is great, even in turns on ice, but with weather-appropriate speed choices would be better.
- I'll need to position the camera a little further below the rear view mirror, allowing better visibility further ahead, even on uphills.
- Given I don't seem to have overheating issues when I'm plugged in to 12V power and leave my GoPro battery out, I'll want to go up from 4K 30 fps to 4K 60 fps for future recording, even though this will greatly increase already-long video render times.
- I might want to try using a second older GoPro securely mounted to my roof, to give the wider view along the top, roughly like Chuck Cook does here, but getting the angles just right and increasing the number of days it takes to produce such video, might not be the way right path forward for me, we'll see.
- I may try to see if there's a way to see my face and eye position in the rear view mirror while still allowing me to see properly.
- I notice the pedals are largely blocked from view, even more in the daytime, so perhaps I'll stop trying to feature them.
- I may try to adjust the view to include adjusted side view mirrors as well, but only if my own view isn't compromised.
- For nighttime drives, I need to come up with more ambient lighting on my steering wheel at all times, remembering to turn on the interior lights after each time I parked was problematic. I also need more diffuse lighting on the brake and accelerator pedals, rather than the harsh bluish flashlight I used for this first video.
While it's apparent that my comments while driving were completely unscripted, I did outline some thoughts to share during my post-drive debriefing footage at the end. I share them with you here, in summary form.
- In my IT career, I've always been a believer in providing candid, constructive feedback, this time, the stakes are even higher.
- I found it helpful to see my own video footage, learning a lot by watching each interaction and intersection and stop.
- I'll probably be waiting until the next software release before trying FSDBeta out again on surface roads, and new versions have already been pushed to other Teslas.
- Tesla thankfully requires high Safety Scores of 100 or 99 for this initial wave of beta testers.
- It's good Tesla doesn't require signing an NDA, the more transparency, the better.
- They're slowing the rollout to a fraction of the fleet of ~150,000 Tesla owners who purchased the Full Self-Driving option.
- The 2018 Tesla Model 3 has been by far the best car and safest car and most fun car by far that I've ever owned or rented, and I've rented over a hundred times these past 30 years. I'm still smiling every time I drive this EV, my first EV, even 3 years and 50,000 miles later. The low maintenance costs, the always-full-tank in the morning ownership experience, and the fun manual driving experience around town has been wonderful, the only major purchase I've ever made where the actual experience exceeded my expectations.
It's important to note that I opted in to test FSDBeta, very intentionally electing to press THE Button after reviewing the crystal clear warnings. Gladly, I purchased the optional driving automation features when it cost far less than today's very steep $10,000 dollar price, but at least it's also available by subscription for $199/month.
I know it was a huge financial risk to buy Autopilot and Full Self-Driving years ago, and the Full Self-Driving part is likely not nearly worth the considerable cost for most folks, at least in 2021. I knew what I was getting into, and I knew it would be a long wait for it to provide real value. Driving safety enhancements and automation are topics I've been pondering and following for three decades, dating back to my visual perception research in 1992 using infrared eye tracking. That's part of the fascination for me personally. True, that's largely academic, but it's also rather practical if Tesla manages to develop a self-driving safety level that allows for mass-market adoption some day.
I had about fifty hours learn-to-drive time with each of my two sons, teaching them defensive driving about a decade ago. It was actually an experience I enjoyed, and a responsibility I took seriously. Now, I get to relive a bit of that again, only this time, I'm teaching a dual-brained adolescent that just so happens to actually be a 72 watt Machine Learning computer. When my Tesla returns to our home's garage, it uses Wi-Fi to auto-upload gigabytes of telemetry data and Video Recordings from my manual record button pushes, used to help Tesla's (eventual) Dojo supercomputer learn from all that real-world data. Tesla then creates a new software update that is sent to the fleet as often as several times per week, containing smarter, better algorithms, along with new features that improve the ownership experience for all Teslas, not just those who paid for FSD.
Recent Teslas are equipped with eight cameras watching everything around the car at all times, and it never gets distracted or sleepy. So it's not so hard to imagine it eventually being a better driver than any human in most conditions. What better use of Artificial Intelligence than to apply it to reduce the 1.35 million deaths on the world's roadways each year? Given our increasingly poor traffic death rates this past year even though mileage is down, safety improvements through accident avoidance can't come soon enough.
Tune In November 11 2021
I will be keeping a very open mind while I wait for a chance to get a bit more experience with later builds of FSDBeta, and after listening to other FSDBeta tester opinions during my upcoming FSDBeta tester panel discussion. Details and registration are at TinkerTry here.
Added Life With Middie podcast and comments above.
Also important to add that there was an issue with unexpected braking on the initial v10.3 release that I never got, explained by Reuters here, with the story ending with:
On Oct. 25, Tesla began deploying the over-the-air software update and re-enabled FCW and AEB features on vehicles with the update.
Tesla said as of Oct. 29, more than 99.8% of the vehicles - all but for 17 - had installed an update and no further action is necessary.
How quickly Tesla was able to react, combined with having the capability to do so over-the-air (without a service visit) is really the story here. It's also great to have helpful journalists that call out identified issues quickly. Such factors make all the difference.
Also worth noting that there have been no accidents reported with FSDBeta engaged, at least not yet. There have been over 1,000 FSDBeta testers on the road for about a year now, mostly Tesla employees, with a thousand more Tesla FSD buyers with Safety Scores of 100% added in early October 2021, and a few thousand more at 99% added later in October, myself included.
Second Time Using Tesla Full Self-Driving!
(not full autonomy/still impressive)
Full 1min 4K 60 fps timelapse at:
Highway is like a 28 year old driving, for years now, secondary roads like a 14 year old, will grow up fast.
To see how far we've come in a year, here's a look at July of 2020.
All EV related articles:
All EV related videos:
EV Owners Show & Tell videos:
All #FSDBeta tweets by Paul Braren:
- Open registration for EV Club of Connecticut's Nov. 11th panel discussion - New Englanders sharing their Tesla FSDBeta experience
Oct 27 2021
- Enduring the Tesla Safety Score experience on the road to a safer, more autonomous future
Oct 12 2021
- Tesla Full Self-Driving beta-tester Kim Paquette speaking to EV Club of CT at 7pm eastern Mar 11 2021, preregister now to join our Zoom!
Mar 10 2021
- A few safe Tesla owners selected to share testing of "Full Self-Driving" beta including new driver-monitored city street navigation
Oct 25 2020
- Model 3 HW3 brain replacement can cause temporary amnesia but Tesla Service can quickly restore your settings, all you need to know before you go
Feb 27 2020
Here's a super-detailed article you might enjoy as much as I did.
- Tesla Full Self-Driving [FSD] Beta Rolls Out To ~1000 More Drivers — My 1st Impressions
Oct 11 2021 by Zachary Shahan at CleanTechnica
Passengers in autonomous vehicles will expect to be able to drink a coffee and feel like they are on a bus or a train, not strapped into a transparent ping pong ball in the middle of a bunch of other transparent ping pong balls.
A diversity of opinions is a good thing, here's some more.
Contents of the FSDBeta Welcome Letter that I received on Oct 29 2021
This arrived about 90 minutes before the code was pushed to my car. I have no issues with the limitations, given our speed limits in New England, New York, and New Jersey are 65 mph maximum, and I never use a follow distance of 1, even in New Jersey traffic.
From: FSDBeta email@example.com
Sent: Friday, October 29, 2021 5:07 PM
To: Undisclosed recipients:
Subject: Tesla | Full Self-Driving (Beta V10.3.1)
We will be pushing FSD Beta Version 10.3.1 to your vehicle shortly!
Full Self-Driving is in limited early 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 Beta 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 Beta only if you will pay constant attention to the road, and be prepared to act immediately, especially around blind corners, crossing intersections, and in narrow driving situations. Every driver is responsible for remaining alert and active when using Autopilot and must be prepared to take action at any time.
As part of receiving FSD Beta, your vehicle will collect and share VIN-associated vehicle driving data with Tesla to confirm your continued eligibility for FSD Beta feature. If you wish to be removed from the limited early access FSD Beta please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Your vehicle is running on Tesla Vision! Note that Tesla Vision also includes some temporary limitations, as noted below:
• Follow distance is limited to 2-7.
• Autopilot top speed is 80 mph.
How to provide feedback:
• Press the "Video Record" button on the top bar UI to share your feedback. When pressed, your vehicle’s external cameras will share a short VIN-associated Autopilot Snapshot with the Tesla engineering team to help make improvements to FSD. You will not be able to view the clip.
• You can email your feedback to email@example.com. In your email please include date, time, location, and if you took an Autopilot Snapshot. This helps us investigate issues, and better understand your feedback.
The Tesla Team
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!