Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving’ feature may get early-access release by the end of 2019
Elon Musk says select Tesla owners will get a ‘feature complete’ version
Tesla may grant certain customers early access to a “feature complete” version of the company’s “full self-driving” (FSD) capabilities by the end of 2019, Elon Musk said in a call with investors Wednesday. Musk said that this wasn’t “for sure” — but that he thinks Tesla is on track for the release.
It’s a kind of limited beta test, so there won’t be a bunch of Tesla vehicles driving around autonomously by the end of the year. Musk later clarified on the call that by “feature complete,” he means the car will be able to drive from someone’s home to their work without intervention. Drivers will still need to be ready to take control if the car runs into a problem. Some experts have taken issue with the way Musk talks about these features in the past, arguing he is muddying the waters by overselling a Tesla car’s capabilities.
Musk said Tesla Autopilot can handle high-speed driving, while its recently rolled out Smart Summon parking feature can handle low speeds. (How well Smart Summon works is up for debate, given the number of Tesla owners reporting bugs in the system.) The company has yet to allow its customers hands-off control of the vehicle at medium speeds, where they are more likely to encounter traffic signals, intersections, and other complexities. FSD is meant to address that gap in Tesla’s current autonomous capabilities.
There will be limits, Musk cautioned. “It doesn’t mean like every scenario everywhere on Earth, including every corner case,” he said. That contradicts previous statements by Musk. Earlier this year, Musk said Tesla’s vehicles will be able to achieve Level 5 autonomy “without a geofence,” which means they can drive anywhere, under any conditions.
Tesla has said it will activate its FSD feature by mid-2020, so today’s comments indicate the company is feeling bullish about its capabilities. Tesla has an early access program for select drivers that it uses as a testing platform to help iron out software bugs.
Musk previously estimated that by the middle of 2020, Tesla’s autonomous system will have improved to the point where drivers will not have to pay attention to the road. The company also plans to roll out autonomous taxis in some parts of the US. The service will allow Tesla owners to add their cars to a Tesla network, which he said would be akin to Uber or Airbnb.