Tesla launched what it calls Full Self-Driving just five months ago, letting a relatively small group of owners activate and use and software while adding an unnerving warning that the system could do “the worst thing at the worst time.” The hardware for FSD itself had been available in Tesla vehicles for much longer, pending activation in those cars that had been purchased with the required set of sensors.
Exactly when the technology would receive a wider release has been unclear, however—as with a number of things related to Tesla product timelines.
Elon Musk shed some light on a significant software update on Twitter earlier this week, suggesting that the version that will follow the current build V8.1 would constitute a significant advancement.
“FSD beta build V8.1 normally drives me around with no interventions. Next version is a big step change beyond that. Tesla is solving a major part of real-world AI. This is not widely known,” Musk tweeted in response to a question about when the system would reach Level 5 autonomy.
Putting aside for the moment the actual abilities of FSD, it didn’t take long for Musk to shed light on just when the next update would be offered.
Yes, beta will be offered much more widely when version 9 is done, hopefully next month
Of course, “much more widely” does not mean everyone, and perhaps it’s prudent to keep in mind that his statement still refers to a “beta” version of the software, not the final or complete version of Full Self-Driving. So we can expect a further number of updates after this one as FSD inches its way up the SAE autonomous level ladder.
This update, however, is expected to permit Teslas to use Autosteer on City Streets—a long-promised expansion of the system’s current range of operation.
In the same cluster of tweets Musk also indicated that FSD on a subscription basis could arrive in the second quarter of 2021, an alternative to buying FSD outright for its current price of $10,000.
Just how many beta tests of FSD we’re likely to see until the company declares autonomy solved remains to be seen; the next version of FSD will by no means be Complete Self-Driving, neither will it be available to everyone with a Tesla, if we follow Musk’s comments. It’s also prudent to note that the current version of FSD still requires drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and be ready to take over control of the car at all times, so there are some asterisks to just how “self-driving” the system is.
Full Self-Driving is not a Level 5 system and should not be treated by current or future users as such. In fact, it’s still considered Level 2 by many in the industry, just like the company’s Autopilot driver-assist system, requiring (adult) driver supervision at all times.
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