Tesla has started giving out over-the-air software upgrades for its long-awaited “Full Self-Driving” beta version 9, a driver assistance system that isn’t autonomous but is highly advanced.
Elon Musk announced that the software update (2021.4.18.12) would begin uploading after midnight on Friday, allowing thousands of Tesla customers who paid the FSD option to use several of Autopilot’s advanced driver-assist features on local, non-highway streets.
For quite some time, Musk has promised v9 of the software. In 2018, he stated that the “long-awaited” version of FSD would be released in August. In 2019, he predicted that “a year from now,” there would be “over a million cars with full self-driving, software, everything.” He announced earlier this month that “FSD 9 beta is shipping soon.”
The real question is whether it’s ready to air. Musk responded with a jumbled tweet, saying, “Beta 9 addresses most known issues, but there will be unknown issues, so please be paranoid.”
He went on to say, “Safety is always top priority at Tesla.” The update’s release notes caution testers since “it may do the wrong thing at the worst time” and to avoid complacence. They also highlight enhanced, larger visualizations on the in-car display, as well as upgrades to the cabin camera’s driver monitoring system to check for attentiveness.
Tesla is without a doubt more willing than its competitors to test beta versions of its Autopilot driver assistance technology on its customers in order to gather data and iron out any flaws.
And most Tesla customers are happy with it, regularly bombarding Musk’s comments with requests to join the company’s Early Access Program for beta testers. Despite its vehicles consistently falling short of what most experts think defines a self-driving car, this has contributed contribute to Tesla’s public perception as a leader in autonomous driving.
Tesla cautioned drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel at all times, despite the fact that the automaker is notorious for refusing to include a more robust driver-monitoring system (such as infrared eye tracking, for example) to ensure that its customers follow safety protocols (though that may be changing).
According to the Society of Automotive Engineers (and Tesla’s lawyers), Autopilot is a Level 2 “partially automatic” technology, which requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.
However, consumer advocates have demonstrated that Tesla’s system can be easily fooled into believing there is someone in the driver’s seat, a topic that has resurfaced in the aftermath of a tragic Tesla incident in Texas, in which investigators claimed there was no one behind the wheel.
However, this hasn’t stopped some Tesla owners from abusing Autopilot, with some even filming and publicizing the consequences. While driving down a congested highway, drivers have been found sleeping in the passenger seat or backseat of their Teslas. Last year, a Canadian man was penalized with dangerous driving when he was pulled over for sleeping while driving at 93 mph.
Since Tesla launched Autopilot in 2015, at least 11 people have died in nine collisions involving the driver assistance technology in the US. There have been at least nine more deaths in seven separate crashes around the world.
Likewise, the US government is encouraging automakers to report crashes involving self-driving vehicles or advanced driver assistance systems as soon as possible. It was a significant shift, indicating that authorities are taking a harder stance on partially automated systems.