Tesla Confirms To California DMV That The Full Self-Driving Beta Will Never Be Full Self-Driving

Illustration for article titled Tesla Confirms To California DMV That The Full Self-Driving Beta Will Never Be Full Self-Driving
Image: DMV, Tesla

This past week, Elon Musk tweeted an announcement that the demand for Tesla’s new Full Self-Driving Beta software — a Level 2 semi-autonomous driver assist system that is not fully self-driving at all — was so high that Telsa would be making it available to any Tesla owner. In case you were wondering about the new, enhanced capabilities of this Beta and if it would finally push past Level 2 semi-autonomy to actual, real full self-driving, then you’re in luck, because Tesla just answered that question to the California DMV. And the answer is no.

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One of the first observers to note this was the Twitter user @GreenTheOnly, a researcher who often finds interesting things in the computers on wrecked Teslas.

Here’s what he noted about FSB Beta, which is also known as “City Streets”:

This is a very important thing to note, because many have speculated that at some point Telsa’s Full Self-Driving option — a $10,000 option you can pre-pay for for your Tesla — would eventually live up to its descriptive and lofty name and actually be developed into a Level 3 self-driving system, which would mean that the person behind the wheel would not have to remain ready to take control at any possible moment.

But, that’s not the case, as Tesla very clearly explains to the California DMV here (emphasis mine):

For context, and as we’ve previously discussed, City Streets continues to firmly root the vehicle in SAE Level 2 capability and does not make it autonomous under the DMV’s definition. City Streets’ capabilities with respect to the object and event detection and response (OEDR) sub-task are limited, as there are circumstances and events to which the system is not capable of recognizing or responding. These include static objects and road debris, emergency vehicles, construction zones, large uncontrolled intersections with multiple incoming ways, occlusions, adverse weather, complicated or adversarial vehicles in the driving path, unmapped roads. As a result, the driver maintains responsibility for this part of the dynamic driving task (DDT). In addition, the driver must supervise the system, monitoring both the driving environment and the functioning of City Streets, and he is responsible for responding to inappropriate actions taken by the system. The feature is not designed such that a driver can rely on an alert to draw his attention to a situation requiring response.There are scenarios or situations where an intervention from the driver is required but the system will not alert the driver. In the case of City Streets (and all other existing FSD features), because the vehicle is not capable of performing the entire DDT, a human driver must participate, as evidenced in part through torque-based steering wheel monitoring, or else the system will deactivate.

So, for anyone who still may be under the impression that FSD will become an actual, yes-you-can-sleep-in-it self-driving system, then, sorry, because Tesla is saying it won’t.

Also, I’m not exactly sure why Tesla needs to call what English-speaking humans call “driving” the “dynamic driving task (DDT)” unless it just want that cool association with the famous insecticide.

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Now, as a hopeful note, Tesla does state it has plans to develop true self-driving systems (Level 3 and up), but it is not suggested that this will be part of their current FSD Beta/City Streets, since Tesla clearly states:

As such, a final release of City Streets will continue to be an SAE Level 2, advanced driver-assistance feature.

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The Level 3 development is mentioned directly afterwards:

Please note that Tesla’s development of true autonomous features (SAE Levels 3+) will follow our iterative process(development, validation, early release, etc.) and any such features will not be released to the general public until we have fully validated them and received any required regulatory permits or approvals.

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It’s impossible to really gauge any stage of development of Tesla’s Level 3 systems from that statement, other than it is in the future tense (“will follow”), which isn’t much to go on.

At this point, all that is clear is that the final version of what’s being called FSD Beta/City Streets will not be Level 3 or above full self-driving, and personally, I don’t believe the current platform of Tesla hardware is capable of a robust Level 3 system, due to its lack of redundancies and sensor/camera cleaning/maintenance systems.

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Based on comments on various media reporting on this, many are speculating that this admission of limiting to Level 2 is just to keep the DMV off Tesla’s back, but, if that’s what’s going on here, not only is being deceptive to the DMV a bad idea, but there’s been zero evidence that Tesla is working on failover/safe handoff systems that require no human interaction.

So, if you dropped ten grand for FSD, congratulations! You have an extremely advanced driver assist system that will require your constant vigilance to monitor, something humans are notoriously bad at. 

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So, no sleeping in your Tesla when it’s in Full Self-Driving mode, because it really isn’t. And, again, that’s Tesla who said that to the DMV, not me.

I’m not usually as honest with the DMV, anyway.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

DISCUSSION

whatthehellisgracielawdoinghere
whatthehellisgracielawdoinghere

Okay I read the email links a bit and I’m getting a slightly different takeaway from the email interactions.

As I see it Tesla announced the city streets feature was going to be released. The DMV asked for clarifications noting that Teslas is not authorized to release an autonomous mode to the public as they have no permit. Tesla responds accordingly that their release will still require driver input.

Now while it is probably in no way ready for full autonomy they couldn’t release it as such anyways because they do not have the permits. Its also noted in the first sentence of the quoted Tesla letter that city streets is a feature. It is a subset of the overall FSD project.

So its not as damning as the reports here indicate but what will be released will certainly not let you sleep on the way to work if that’s what you were hoping for.