Tesla Full Self Driving (Beta) — 1st Notable Improvement In 1½ Years
The Tesla Full Self Driving (FSD) suite is a bit of an enigma. I’ve had it for 1½ years, and since long before I’ve had it, I’ve seen some people with the software suite raving about how amazing it is. Indeed, that the car is somewhat able to drive anywhere is a major technical feat. However, when I got access to FSD (beta) in October 2021, I was shocked at how bad it was. I had followed the social media hype about it for a year, and I expected it to be far less error prone than it ended up being. But, hey, expectations are the source of most of our unhappiness — I recalibrated and looked forward to watching it improve in the coming months. Unfortunately, in the 1½ years since, I’ve seen very little improvement, I’ve seen glaring issues remain, and I’ve even sometimes seen new problems arise.
Why do I call it an enigma? For one, the fact that some people claim it is so good and that they can drive long distances without intervening is mind blowing to me. From my experience with it, I can’t imagine how that’s possible. Secondly, I expected some seemingly simple issues to be fixed pretty promptly, and they haven’t been. Third, with all the claims about how Tesla’s massive pool of data can make FSD capable of driving nearly anywhere, I am shocked the AI hasn’t learned how to drive decently in some of the simplest driving environments imaginable. In short, it seems like the millions or billions of dollars spent on this are taking much longer to bear fruit than I expected (and, if you simply look back at Elon Musk’s comments over the years, they are also taking much longer to bear fruit than he expected). Well, I guess that is where I end up — while I was indeed bullish on Tesla’s FSD approach for years, going back nearly a decade, I have now lost faith in the company’s approach.
There are many Tesla owners with FSD (beta) who share my opinion on the technology’s development up to now. Some of those people are still bullish about Tesla FSD getting to robotaxi capability with the tech that is currently in our cars, but I’d hazard to guess that most of these owners think hardware improvements are needed first, and some portion of these FSD testers are like me and presume there may be some critical errors in the software approach. (As just one example, I’ve postulated previously that Tesla’s FSD software has a “see-saw problem,” in which a fix for one driver in one case leads to a failure for another driver in a similar but not quite the same case. There’s apparently another term or two in the AI world for this kind of thing, but I like the “see-saw” comparison I came up with.) Who’s right? I definitely do not claim to know. Even AI experts have been way off in their predictions about this technology, and of course disagree on the merits of the approach Tesla is taking. So, who am I to say which conclusion will prove true?
With that background out of the way, though, let’s get to the one notable improvement to FSD I’ve noticed since getting version 11 of FSD (beta). As far as I remember, it’s the first truly notable improvement to the FSD driving experience that I’ve seen since getting 100 on the Tesla Safety Score test in October 2021 and getting access to the full FSD (beta) suite as a result. The improvement is with right turns. It used to be that the car would stop too far back and then take a long time to make the turn, an excruciatingly long time, with a lot of inching forward while jerking the wheel around and inching forward while jerking the wheel around, etc. It now takes right turns much more naturally, more quickly, and with much less rapid wheel jerking. It’s much closer to how a normal human makes a right turn. That said, it is still a bit too slow for my taste, and I think too slow for when someone is behind you. It would be one thing if I was a little old lady with curly white hair, but I don’t expect much patience and sympathy from a normal driver sitting behind me at a turn while I take a few seconds too long to realize the coast is clear and that I should be moving.
I still need more time using FSD to confirm my initial experiences with the improved right turn. I am also curious to determine how close it is to normal human driving that could pass for robotaxi-level driving. Will the public ever accept full-blown Tesla robotaxis on their own?
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