Elon Musk is admitting that self-driving is a harder problem than he originally thought as some Tesla owners are trolling him over yet another missed deadline for Tesla’s self-driving program.
Musk has a long history of failed predictions regarding Tesla bringing a true self-driving system to market.
It was first supposed to happen in 2018, then 2019, and in more recent years Musk has been more careful about the way he talks about full self-driving and now instead refers to a “feature-complete” system that would still rely on the driver’s attention but could lead to true autonomy with data proving that it’s safer than humans.
This “feature complete” system is now Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta, which first started being released to early access owners back in October 2020 as part of a limited program.
Tesla has since released several software updates for FSD Beta, and it has expanded the early access pool, but the program has certainly slowed down in recent months.
The next big step is expected to be the FSD v9 Beta update, which Musk has been promising for a while now.
It is supposed to incorporate Tesla Vision, a new computer vision system from Tesla that relies entirely on cameras without readings from the radar sensor.
The update has been delayed a few times now. Recently, Musk said that it should be coming “no later than June.”
— Seth Weintraub (@llsethj) June 22, 2021
Tesla did push its Tesla Vision update to power Autopilot in new Model 3 and Model Y vehicles last month, but it has yet to bring it to its FSD Beta.
Most recently, the CEO said that the FSD v9 was two weeks away, but that deadline has also passed now.
On Twitter, some Tesla owners are starting to troll Musk as those timelines are becoming a running gag.
One of them changed the name of his Tesla to “two weeks” in reference to Musk’s promise of FSD v9 Beta coming:
— Zack (@BLKMDL3) July 2, 2021
Musk responded to the tweet by swearing that FSD v9 Beta is coming soon and admitted that self-driving is a harder problem than he thought:
“Haha, FSD 9 beta is shipping soon, I swear! Generalized self-driving is a hard problem, as it requires solving a large part of real-world AI. I didn’t expect it to be so hard, but the difficulty is obvious in retrospect. Nothing has more degrees of freedom than reality.”
FSD 9 Beta is not only expected to be an important step to improve performance of Tesla’s “feature complete” full self-driving system, but it should also come with a promised “download button” for more people to get access to the software update beyond the “early access” fleet and even a subscription model for those who didn’t pay for the FSD package.
Look, the man is trying to bring to market a potentially revolutionary technology that, if successful, is going to profoundly change the way we use cars forever.
It’s going to make transportation safer and unlock one of the most valuable commodities for a lot of people: time.
He could be forgiven for mispredicting a few timelines along the way.
Especially considering Tesla’s approach to self-driving is unlike any other company out there despite hundreds of them working on the same problem.
The automaker is leveraging a fleet of now over a million vehicles to feed an insane amount of data to machine learning neural nets powering a pure computer vision system.
It’s extremely difficult to predict the curve of improvement for such a system.
However, where Elon loses some goodwill is that Tesla has been selling the “full self-driving” capacity to people for a long time at a somewhat expensive price, and those people unsurprisingly are asking for results.
For a while now, I’ve been pushing the idea of Tesla being more transparent about the progress of FSD with a tracker of driver intervention per million miles:
I think Tesla should release a public tracker of driver intervention per million miles when FSD Beta gets wider release. After all the claims, I think FSD buyers are owed something more than vague timelines. https://t.co/VlDlelbv19
— Fred Lambert (@FredericLambert) June 21, 2021
Tesla told the California DMV that the system would need to achieve 1 to 2 million miles of driving without driver intervention before moving up from a level 2 system that requires driver attention.
This would be an interesting metric for us to be able to track after Tesla releases FSD v9 Beta to the wider fleet.
If Tesls itself consider the metric important toward achieving full self-driving, we should be able to track it.