Meaning of Tesla’s Full Self Driving Beta And Videos

A few days ago, Tesla released a beta version of the completely rewritten software for Full Self Driving to a select group of Tesla owners, and the first impressive videos were already rolling in. Full Self Driving is no longer an autopilot, which is no more than a driver assistance system, but should in the first phase allow Level 4 autonomous driving – or as it is so unambitiously called in the German-speaking world ‘fully automated driving’. The beta version, as it is called in software jargon, is still an unfinished version that is presented to users for testing and bug reporting purposes. The version we see here in the videos is the so-called FSD Beta in the version 2020.40.8.10.

While the first videos were still short excerpts taken during night drives without much traffic, longer drives in daylight and different weather and traffic conditions from all corners of the USA have now been published.

Videos

In the first video, the owner follows his wife’s daily forty-minute commute from Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, to JPL in Pasadena.

3:30 the car arrived at a construction zone, system crossed to other lane to avoid emerging cones on original lane;
7:28 successful left hand turn, driver stepped on accelerator to suit his speed preference;
10:34 driver intervened for a speeding corvette coming from behind. Driver suspect corvette wants a race;
12:53 successful right turn;
14:30 too cautious on no traffic lights left turn crossing into incoming traffic, driver intervened;
37:07 successful left turn;
38:22 successful left turn;
39:20 drive complete.

Left turns without traffic lights – so-called unprotected left turns – are among the more difficult maneuvers for an autonomous car. In light traffic it is easy to manage, but in heavy traffic, whether fast or slow, it is a problem. In slow traffic, people often communicate with hand gestures to allow someone to turn – this can be taught well to a self-driving car. Or the turning car can simply swerve until someone stops.

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In dense, fast traffic, a human will probably take a risk and drive with a little more acceleration than normal, assuming that the other driver will slow down a little when he wants to turn left. The risk tolerance of self-driving cars is (currently) much lower than that of a human driver, so they will not perform this type of risky maneuver. Of course the developers could set more risk, but they don’t want to endanger anyone either. But just waiting until the road is completely clear could take a long time and annoy your passengers and the drivers behind you.

That the FSD is not only a fair weather driver is shown in this video during a ride in the rain in North Carolina:

Here a drive through winding streets in San Luis Obispo in California:

The most impressive shot of an FSD ride comes from this drone perspective, which took place during a ride through the small town of Old Auburn in California. A tricky situation arises at the beginning, when the vehicle almost drives into a parked car during a left turn maneuver.

Data

What happens to all the data that the beta testers accumulate? Tesla uploads it from the vehicles and uses it in its in-house machine learning system. The collected data helps to further develop and improve the Full Self Driving functionality, thus benefiting all vehicles. One user measured the data transfer and after only a few days, he came up with 3.9 gigabytes, which his Tesla sent back to the mothership.

Larger Meaning

The importance of the FSD Beta and all the videos is obvious. Here is a technology that is about to be released and will be a gamechanger. And this years before traditional car manufacturers expected it. It has only just become clear that electric mobility is something serious and that there is no way around it, and that even the beloved combustion technology will disappear. This first tipping point has now been understood, albeit reluctantly. But they haven’t been prepared at all for second tipping point. Autonomous driving is on the priority list somewhere between manual starting crank and pink spare tire.

A major difference to the approaches of developers of self-driving technology such as Waymo, Zoox or GM Cruise is Tesla’s renunciation of LiDAR and high-precision road maps. Elon Musk believes that self-driving cars will do without the Laserscanning system LiDAR, which generates a 3D image of the environment, and only use cameras and radar, and that expensive to produce and fragile high-precision navigations maps are not the right approach to developing self-driving cars. Tesla relies on the sensors and the AI on board to create the most important road details even while driving and to combine them with the prefabricated, relatively simple map material.

The combined effect of autonomous driving, electric vehicles, and the sharing economy is on the verge of changing the auto industry―all within the next decade. And this tech/economics revolution will touch virtually every industry.

The Last Driver’s License Holder Has Already Been Born provides the information and insight you need to position your company for these groundbreaking changes.

It reveals the disruptive technologies now taking shape and provides a timeline of when they will take hold. It examines the impact on the industry itself, as well as adjacent sectors, including jobs and professions, city and street design, hospitals, insurances, politics, security, hospitality industry, the oil industry, real estate, and society at large.

$29.90 | 448 pages | 10/23/2019
Amazon

The FSD is to be released to a wider circle of Tesla owners by the end of the year. I also ordered the FSD with the purchase of my Model 3 and I am now waiting impatiently for it. Even if it will be a few weeks or even months later, this is still years ahead of the competition.

Not only are 1.2 million Teslas currently in customer hands equipped with the hardware necessary for the FSD, but even if only a fraction of vehicles will use the FSD, we are still talking about tens of thousands of vehicles that will collect data and forward it to Tesla. This allows the AI to be trained much faster for many different regions and circumstances. So the AI will improve rapidly, although never perfect.

Once the FSD has been in productive operation on customer vehicles for some time, we can expect Tesla’s next step. And Elon Musk had already outlined this step at the Autonomy Days in April 2019 Self-propelled Teslas can be used as robot cabs. Every Tesla in the hands of a customer could earn money as a robot cab for the owner and for Tesla instead of parking and collecting dust. And that would be the third Tipping Point.

By the way, the beta testers have explicit permission from Tesla to put such recordings on the Internet. While the competition is talking about autonomous driving only becoming available in 10 to 20 years, Tesla is demolishing its competitors.

This article was also published in German.

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