Are you looking for a part-time job that does not require a college degree? You may be in luck. Tesla recently announced the company is looking for drivers from all across the world to test their latest Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Features in their electric vehicles. Yet, current Tesla drivers have been testing these features already through updates.
Tesla’s driver-assist technology, Autopilot, and Full Self-Driving continue to garner both positive and negative attention. Although the latest Full Self-Driving features allow the Tesla to park, make lane changes, and drive off the highway, Teslas are still not fully autonomous driving vehicles.
Tesla has been beta testing its new Full Self-Driving software with Tesla customers and hiring individuals who would like to be beta testers. However, some Tesla drivers have now had their beta testing liberties revoked because they were not paying full attention when behind the wheel, illustrating this is not “self driving.” Keep reading to learn more about the latest updates with Tesla Autopilot and other assisting features.
Tesla’s Autopilot Driver-Assist Technology
Driver-assist technology like Tesla’s Autopilot can help the vehicle steer, accelerate, and brake within its driving mode. They are meant to help drivers avoid accidents through these features as well as alleviate the stresses of driving. Some features even monitor the driver’s fatigue to make sure the human being is not tired behind the wheel.
The Autopilot driver’s assist technology has gone through numerous upgrades since the first version of its hardware in September 2014 when it had one front-facing camera. This camera was supported by a Bosch radar sensor that tracked the vehicle’s speed and cruise control with a 525-foot range and twelve sonar sensors with 16-feet range.
Tesla went through three other versions and is now selling its Autopilot Hardware 3.0 in every vehicle manufactured after March 2019. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, has claimed that this most recent version has all of the components that are needed to turn Tesla cars into a full self-driving vehicle. Some of these impressive upgrades are listed below:
- Improved from one camera to eight cameras surrounding the vehicle that deliver a view of 360 degrees and a range of up to 250 meters
- Still has the twelve ultrasonic sensors, but they have been updated so that they can now identify objects, whether they are soft or hard, and this is now detected at nearly twice the distance of the old system’s 16-foot range
- Changing from a third-party computer system to a new, in-house two bespoke unit design
- A new Hardware 3 onboard computer processing system that has increased more than 40 times the data from the older system
- A Tesla-developed neural net, which sees in every direction at the same time
- Vision-processing tools constructed on a deep neural network to analyze the vehicle’s environment (Tesla Vision, discussed below)
- The on-board computer can read lane paint on the road so that it can sense and detect any surrounding cars
Autopilot also gives drivers stop sign control, which helps them see and respond to stop signs, and traffic light control, which slows down the vehicle when coming up to a traffic light. If the light is green, the driver can push the accelerator and go through the traffic light safely. Recently, Tesla announced transitioning to “Tesla Vision” without radar.
Tesla Vision is One of the Latest Releases
One of the latest updates to Tesla’s Autopilot is called “Tesla Vision,” which is a transition to assisting drivers without having to rely on front-facing radar in its Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. Instead, the Autopilot and Full Self-Driving technology will use computer vision-based technology on its cameras to monitor the car’s environment.
The Model 3 and Model Y vehicles that are being delivered after May 2021 will be the first vehicles to no longer be equipped with the Bosch radar sensor. Instead, they will fully rely on camera vision and neural net processing to employ Autopilot, Full-Self Driving, and the other safety features currently active in the Tesla vehicles.
However, Tesla did caution drivers of these new vehicles that its feature, Autosteer, will be limited to a maximum speed of 75 miles per hour and a longer minimum following distance. Autosteer uses the cameras and sensors to make automatic lane changes and help the driver navigate on tighter, more difficult and complex roads.
If the vehicles are equipped with Smart Summon and Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance, they may be disabled when the new vehicles are delivered. Among other things, Summon allows the vehicle to move without anyone being inside of the car. This could be helpful if you lose your vehicle in a parking garage and have it come to you.
Concerns about Tesla Autopilot Safety Features
There are active safety features that come with the Autopilot system in all Tesla vehicles made after September 2014. The Autopilot hardware and software uses these features to protect both the driver and the vehicle from possible collisions, but they do not react to every situation on the road, which has made them come under scrutiny:
- Automatic emergency braking
- Warnings for collisions on the front and side of the vehicle
- Acceleration reduction for obstacles
- The monitoring of blind spots
- Help to avoid lane departures in minor and emergency situations
The forward and side collision warnings alert the driver of potential collisions along the side and in front of the car, while obstacle aware acceleration instinctively decreases the vehicle’s acceleration when an obstacle is sensed in front of the car. Blind spot monitoring is not necessarily new and found in most vehicles, but still a useful feature.
The lane and emergency lane departure avoidance features are both impressive. The first feature applies steering to correct the car and make sure it stays in its lane, while the emergency feature actually steers the car back into the driving lane if it detects the car veering off to the right or left and possibly colliding with another vehicle or obstacle.
Tesla’s Automatic Emergency Braking is the main feature that has brought criticism by drivers and the media. It calculates the probability of a crash occurring and greatly reduces the speed or even abruptly brakes the vehicle. However, this has allegedly caused accidents when the Tesla has braked with nothing in front of it.
In-Car Cameras: Latest Updates in the Models 3 and Y
Tesla has also added a new software update that permits the in-car camera, located above the rearview mirror, in the Model 3 and Model Y to actually monitor the driver when the Autopilot system is activated and used. This means the camera can detect any inattentiveness or fatigue and alert the driver while Autopilot is being employed.
If you are worried about any privacy issues, Tesla has ensured its customers that the data being captured is on a loop system and does not leave the vehicle. The imagery and information captured will not be saved or transmitted unless data sharing is enabled by the driver. However, this may help drivers not misuse the system, as in the past.
Tesla formally did not use the camera installed in the vehicle to monitor the driver and, instead, relied on sensors placed within the steering wheel that calculated whether or not the driver actually kept his or her hands on the wheel. That did not stop drivers from videotaping themselves, however, misusing the system and putting it on social media.
For example, Tesla drivers have posted on social media sites how they were able to trick the sensors into thinking they had their hands on the wheel. Tesla drivers have even posted TikTok videos of themselves sitting in the backseat while their Tesla was driving along the highway. These incidents of misuse have caused fatal crashes.
Removing Radar Has Hurt Tesla’s Reputation with Experts
Some details about this new driver monitoring system are unclear at this point. For example, is the in-car camera tracking the driver’s head position, eye gaze, or both? Can it be used with hands-free driving or will that set off alerts? There are already vehicles on the market today that allow hands-free driving, does this affect that?
Since most automakers use a combination of cameras and radar to sense what is happening around the car and act accordingly, some questions on this latest Tesla change probably need to be answered. Features like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane changing without radar is questionable at best.
Removing the radar also hurt Tesla’s rating with Consumer Reports. Before the Model 3 was a top pick and when Consumer Reports rated the capabilities and performance of seventeen different driving assistance systems Tesla was the only manufacturer to receive a nine out of ten. Taking radar out removed the Model 3 from the top pick list.
In addition, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is also planning on removing the Model 3 from their Top Safety Pick title. The NHTSA even said it will no longer give its check mark for some of the main safety features that are offered in Autopilot, such as the automatic emergency braking, to Tesla vehicles made on or after April 27, 2021.
Tesla Car Crashes Continue to Draw Criticism
Tesla is not new to criticism of some of its Autopilot features. In 2016 and then less than three years later, it was the center of two fatal crashes in which the auto braking feature did not stop two cars from crashing into tractor trailers in Florida and killing the drivers. Neither the autobraking nor the driver braked in time before the Tesla crashed.
More recently, a crash on a California highway brought scrutiny to Tesla’s Autopilot system when a 35-year-old Tesla driver was killed after hitting an overturned semi. A 30-year-old motorist was also injured when he was hit by the Tesla while he was trying to help the driver of the overturned semi out of his wrecked vehicle.
This has been the twenty-ninth case the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has had to respond to that has involved a Tesla vehicle, coming shortly after the California Highway Patrol arrested a Tesla driver for sitting in the back seat of his Tesla riding down Interstate 80 with no one driving behind the wheel. That driver’s misuse of the Autopilot system ended up with him being accused of reckless driving.
Although it had not been confirmed that the reckless driver was operating the vehicle on Autopilot, it was deemed to be very likely that his Tesla was either employing Autopilot or Full Self-Driving so that the car could drive while he was in the back seat of the vehicle. These were in addition to two crashes in Michigan involving Tesla’s in 2021.
Autopilot Versus Full Self-Driving Capability
What exactly is the difference between Autopilot and the latest update, the Full Self-Driving Capability? Autopilot is the feature that comes standard with the Tesla vehicles and includes automatic emergency braking, front and side collision warning, and automatic high beams. It makes the driving less stressful in two main ways:
- Traffic-Aware Cruise Control matches the speed of your Tesla vehicle to the speed of the surrounding traffic
- Autosteer helps the driver steer in a clearly marked lane
All new Tesla vehicles come with the latest and greatest hardware that is compatible with the option of Full Self-Driving Capability. This new system is designed for both short-distance or long-distance trips to assist the driver with certain functions. This does not mean you can sit in the backseat, but instead sit behind the wheel and relax.
One of the most impressive features of Full Self-Driving Capability, discussed below, is called Navigate on Autopilot. This feature actually leads your Tesla from a highway on ramp to its off ramp, automatically turning on your turn signal so that you do not miss your intended exit. It also suggests lane changes and interchanges on the highway.
Some of the other latest and greatest features in Tesla’s Self-Driving Capability include:
- Auto lane change
- Basic Summon
- Smart Summon
- Traffic and stop sign control
Tesla is also examining how they can add autosteer on city streets. However, these items do not make the car autonomous. These are not self-directed and self-sufficient vehicles, although Elon Musk has been testing a new Full Self-Driving package on his own Tesla to possibly deliver a level 5 fully autonomous driving system in the future.
Navigate and Self-Driving Convenience
The basic Autopilot driver-assist technology comes standard with Tesla vehicles today, but vehicle owners can choose to upgrade, for an additional $10,000, to the Navigate and Self-Driving options. Navigate on Autopilot will suggest lane changes to improve the driver’s route and make the necessary adjustments so you are stuck behind slow cars.
For example, Navigate will make automatic lane changes around slower traffic on the highway and steer itself through highway interchanges. It can even automatically steer your Tesla vehicle towards the highway interchange and correct exits based on your given destination. Autosteer also helps you navigate through tight, tough roads.
The hefty $10,000 cost also comes with Tesla’s Smart Summon. This feature was introduced in September 2016 and since then has been part of the software in Autopilot FSD in the following vehicles: Model S, Model X, and Model 3. Summon is only supposed to be used in parking lots and driveways. Think of this scenario:
- Your car is parked in a tight spot, and you cannot safely open the door
- You call upon Summon to pull out for you
- With the Tesla parked and turned off, for a total of three seconds hold down the center button on the key fob
- You will notice the hazard lights start to flicker and then remain steady
- Release the center button
- The Tesla vehicle is now in Summon mode and the front truck now acts as the directional controls
- Without anyone behind the wheel, Summon will back your Tesla up and save you from entering (or exiting) your vehicle in this confined area
- Cancel Summon by pressing the center button down again
- NOTE: You can also use Summon with your Tesla app on your phone and will only work within 200 feet of your smartphone
The Basic Summon allows the car to move forward and backward in a straight line, while the advanced “Smart Summon” actually drives the vehicle freely without needing anyone behind the wheel. Smart Summon was updated in the Autopilot Software Version 10.0, allowing your car to drive towards you in a parking lot from anywhere.
What is Beta Testing?
Tesla labels its Navigation on Autopilot system and the Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control features as “Beta,” but what exactly does this mean? The term Beta usually means that the computer software being used is still in development. Although Tesla continues to improve them over time, using still-developing software comes with issues.
- Tesla is about to release v9 of its Full Self-Driving beta software
- Tesla vehicles built after 2016 have the sensors necessary to support the beta testing features
- Some vehicles can receive a computer software upgrade
- Tesla is looking to greatly expand their beta software testing through customers and non-customers
Beta drivers are basically testing versions of software that they are still required to purchase for thousands of dollars. This means beta testing can help improve the software, but it could also mean using actual consumers to be beta testers could prove to be expensive and possibly dangerous if there end up being human or computer error.
In addition, Tesla even announced that some of its Tesla drivers were actually removed from beta testing the Full Self-Driving software because the drivers were not paying the sufficient amount of attention to the road. This further illustrates that the software that is titled “Full Self-Driving” is not indeed that if the drivers still need to be aware in the car.
Tesla said it made the beta testers fully aware that Full Self-Driving does not equate to fully autonomous vehicle driving and that the drivers are still responsible for being fully attentive when they are behind the wheel. This more than likely means you cannot get in a Tesla, put in your destination, and then sit back and relax while it takes you home.
Can Tesla Autopilot Drive You Home?
Navigate on Autopilot is just one of the features of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Capability system. If you tell your Tesla your home destination, your vehicle will figure out the optimal route and navigate the streets, complex intersections, and freeway driving. When you arrive home, you step out of your car and it will park itself.
So, can Tesla Autopilot drive you home? No, these are not self-driving vehicles. What it can do is navigate your driving route so that you can reach your home destination for you, but you still need to be behind the wheel and aware of your surroundings. Yes, it can change lanes and autopark, but the Tesla will not drive the entire destination alone.
Auto Lane Change can be enabled through the Autopilot controls and then, when the car is in Autosteer, it will change lanes for you based on you engaging the turn signal in the direction you would like to go. If your car sees a parking spot, Autopark will detect it. A grey ‘P’ icon will appear and the car will drive and park the vehicle for you.
Full Self-Driving is not necessarily what it sounds like, as at this point the system does not allow for a car to safely self-drive all by itself with the driver in the backseat. The magazine Car and Driver even tested this feature back in October 2019 in the Model 3 when this promise of full self-driving was first introduced to only a few lucky individuals.
The Magazine Car and Driver Tests a Model 3 with Mixed Results
Testers from Car and Driver used a route to test its 2019 Model 3 Long Range that was equipped with the Full Self-Driving package. What they learned is that the Tesla cannot fully drive you on its own from point A to point B. Instead, it can monitor the environment and take over the vehicle for a short period of time when the situation occurs.
The drivers-assist system can recognize stop signs and stop lights, traffic signs and cones, pedestrians and trash cans, and of course other vehicles on the road. However, the driver still needs to press the accelerator to work through these self-driving capabilities and make the proper decisions. The Tesla does not fully “think” on its own.
Car and Driver found that their Model 3 had difficulties navigating through roundabouts, highway curves that were ninety degrees, and some more complex merges on the highway. The self-driving capabilities also had difficulties in situations where there was a lot of vehicles and pedestrian traffic in urban areas.
The testers even found that when their Model 3 was driving down a road that was supposed to be shared with a bike lane, the Autopilot was driving the Tesla right down the middle and monopolizing the center of the lane. This confusion further illustrates why Tesla’s Full Self-Driving still needs a human to make these important decisions.
Tesla Drivers Still Need to Pay Attention
Autopilot may be a driver assistance system and Full Self-Driving does have capabilities to drive for you, but at this point you still need to pay attention while using both services. These features do not turn your Tesla into a self-driving car even though the title says otherwise. Full Self-Driving is also only featured with the Autopilot 3.0 software.
That being said, if you have a Tesla with Autopilot Hardware 2.0 (vehicles made between October 2016 and August 2017) or Autopilot Hardware 2.5 (vehicles made between August 2017 and March 2019), you can receive a complimentary upgrade so that you can purchase the Full Self-Driving Computer system.
Consumer Reports has tested Tesla’s Full Self-Driving systems and have concluded that it is an expensive option that does not live up to its name. This may be because Tesla has claimed that your $10,000 price tag gives you all the hardware necessary to make your Tesla fully autonomous even though this is not the case at this time.
The name of the system can be very perplexing since Tesla drivers need to give their Full Self-Driving systems a significant amount of attention while driving on the road. Just because a vehicle can park itself, change lanes, and drive short distances in a parking lot does not make it an autonomous vehicle that drives completely on its own.
Although Musk has claimed that one day his Tesla vehicles will be able to drive you autonomously, they are not yet there and still need the driver to monitor the situation. Full Self-Driving means you can be guided on and off the highway, make lane changes, park your car, and navigate your trip home. However, Tesla vehicles are not self-driving.
Tesla is still looking for drivers to help test their full self-driving beta so that it can continue to be improved. Under human supervision, it may be able to help get you from point A to point B. However, if you do not still pay attention while behind the wheel, Tesla will more than likely axe you from its beta testing program.