Tesla extends autonomous driving test – to those it deems worthy

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The wait is almost over for some Tesla Inc. customers to gain access to the driver assistance technology the company has controversially marketed, provided they adopt their best behavior.

Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said that on Friday the electric car maker will roll out an updated version of its Full Self-Driving Beta software, which so far has only been available for about 2000 people.

Those with access to this constantly updated software – a mix of Tesla employees and avid Musk fans – have for nearly a year perfected a system that the company has billed customers up to $ 10,000 for. to use in the future. Tesla says the system, often referred to as FSD, is designed to someday handle short and long distance trips without driver intervention.

It’s unclear how wide the wider version will be due to a curved ball Musk threw this month. The CEO tweeted that the download button that customers will see on Friday will ask car owners for Tesla’s permission to rate their driving behavior for seven days. If the company judges that the behavior is good, it will grant access to the beta version of FSD.

Extended Access and Surprise Condition is the latest development involving FSD and Autopilot, the driver assistance system that has been dividing Tesla watchers for years. Musk encourages the perception that Tesla is an autonomous leader has helped make it by far the most valuable automaker in the world. But others have challenged what they see as a reckless and deceptive approach to deploying technology that isn’t ready. The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently opened its second autopilot fault investigation since 2016.

“That’s another example of Tesla stepping on his own drum. It’s like, damn it, torpedoes, full speed ahead,” Gene Munster, co-founder of investment firm Loup Ventures, said over the phone. Putting aside some of the regulatory concerns and bottlenecks, Tesla is determined to move forward with its own agenda. ”

The NHTSA began investigating Autopilot in August after nearly a dozen collisions involving first aid vehicles. The regulator, which has the power to judge faulty cars and order recalls, assesses the technologies and methods used by Tesla to monitor, assist and enforce driver engagement when using autopilot. It also examines the system’s detection of objects and events on the road, and how it reacts.

Musk first announced his intention to sell FSD in October 2016, months after he said at a tech conference that he viewed autonomous driving as “essentially a problem solved.”

In April 2019, he predicted that about a year later, Tesla’s technology would advance to the point that drivers would no longer need to pay attention.

In March of this year, however, Musk announced that Tesla had revoked FSD beta of drivers who did not pay enough attention to the road.

The new head of America’s other auto crash investigator, the National Transportation Safety Board, took umbrage at this kind of mixed message.

“Whether it’s Tesla or someone else, it’s up to these manufacturers to be honest about what their technology does and doesn’t do,” Jennifer Homendy told Bloomberg News in her first interview after taking the oath of office. last month.

Homendy has since called Tesla’s use of the term full self-driving “deceptive and irresponsible” and expressed concern to the Wall Street Journal over FSD’s desire to be used by more drivers on the roads. public.

“For investors, it’s terrifying,” said Taylor Ogan, CEO of Boston hedge fund Snow Bull Capital, who followed closely. videos FSD beta testers sometimes demonstrating software flaws. “It’s like the CEO of a pharmaceutical company expanding the test pool for the investigational drug that the FDA is investigating for potentially injuring people.”

Tara Goddard, a professor of town planning at Texas A&M University who studies how auto safety technologies and automation are marketed to consumers, wonders if Tesla’s seven-day driver behavior assessment goes far enough to rule out dangerous users.

She pointed to a recent blog post by a Tesla enthusiast giving car owners some hints on how the company is likely to judge their driving.

“People are already saying, ‘Here’s how you play with the system to make sure you can sign up and use it however you want,” Goddard said. “I’m just worried we’re going to see a slight increase in this usage. in places where it really isn’t ready for use – and not by professional drivers. “



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