Musk has Rolled out Level 4 Autonomy to 400,000 Teslas in the U.S.
The clue is in the name. Tesla’s Full Self-Driving cars are full self-driving Level 4 autonomous vehicles. But Elon Musk has misled regulators into designating FSD as only a Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS). This has allowed Musk to roll out a fleet of 400,000 fully autonomous vehicles, without any of the regulations and testing that should apply. Now Musk has announced that he intends to give free trials of FSD to every Tesla owner in the U.S., with nearly 1.4 million vehicles as of December 2022.
By pointing regulators to the Tesla FSD manual, which says it requires drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times, Musk convinced regulators that FSD was an ADAS which is governed by the much less stringent Level 2 autonomous driving regulations. Consumer Reports rated Tesla’s ADAS as the lowest out of 10 manufacturers. It does not have any of the lane departure warning, emergency braking, or blind spot detection features expected of an ADAS system, because it is not an ADAS system.
Far from assisting the vehicle’s driver, FSD takes over the task of driving completely, and any human intervention disengages FSD. If the driver holds the steering wheel at all times like the manual requires, FSD will frequently disengage.
As a result, nobody keeps their hands on the steering wheel when FSD is engaged, as can be seen in hundreds of videos posted by FSD users online, including this fake promotional video by Elon Musk and this “60 Minutes” video with Leslie Stahl, where Musk himself is often seen not holding the wheel. This is all consistent with Elon Musk’s perennial claims to the public that Tesla will achieve a level 4 autonomy better than a human driver “by the end of the year.”
Hundreds of thousands of Tesla owners have bought FSD because of Elon’s promises, and they use their Teslas as autonomous vehicles every day, right under NHTSA’s nose.
The key problem is Full Self-Driving Teslas are terrible Level 4 autonomous vehicles. On average it requires a human driver to intervene to correct a critical driving error about every 10 miles. By contrast, Waymo can drive for an average of close to 10,000 miles per intervention.
Elon Musk has managed to circumvent the proper testing and licensing process required for fully autonomous vehicles by inserting a meaningless note into the user manual.
It is high time that regulators wake up to this deception and regulate Tesla Full Self-Driving to the same standards that all other autonomous cars, such as Waymo and Cruise, are subject to. Until this happens, Elon Musk, Tesla, and regulators are putting the lives of drivers and pedestrians at risk on our roads.
Thirty-three people have already died in accidents involving Tesla’s defective self-driving cars. Historically, NHTSA has acted to issue recalls for defective products that involved far fewer fatalities, such as the Ford Pinto’s fuel system or Takata’s airbags. How many more people have to die before regulators shut down Elon Musk’s Full Self-Driving experiment?