Tesla owners can now request ‘Full Self-Driving’, prompting criticism from regulators and safety advocates

Tesla full self-driving

The software update was beamed to Tesla cars over-the-air early Saturday morning.

Tesla began letting owners request its “Full Self-Driving” software early Saturday, opening up for wide release its most advanced driver-assistance suite and signaling thousands of drivers will soon beon the road with the unregulated and largely untested features.

It’s the first time the company has let typical owners upgrade to the software it terms self-driving, although the name itself is an exaggeration by industry and regulatory standards. Tesla chief executive Elon Musk had said owners would be able to request this weekendthe upgraded suite of advanced driver-assistance features, which Tesla says is a beta, although they wouldn’t receive the capabilities right away.

Owners will have to agree to let Tesla monitor their driving behavior through the company insurance calculator. Tesla issued a detailed guide specifying the criteria under which they would be graded. If their driving is deemed to be “good” over a seven day period, Musk said on Twitter, “beta access will be granted.”

It’s the latest twist in a saga that has regulators, safety advocates and family of Tesla crash victims up in arms because of the potential for chaos as the technology is unleashed on real-world roads. Until now, roughly 2,000 beta testers have had access to the technology.

As for the evaluation period for drivers who want to sign up, Tesla posted its “safety score” system on its website shortly before the button’s release. It said drivers would be scored on a 0 to 100 criteria, with most receiving 80 or above. Drivers will be assessed on five factors, it said: forward collision warnings per 1,000 miles, instances of hard braking, aggressive turning, unsafe following and forced disengagements of the Autopilot system. Tesla would then use a formula to calculate their score.

“These are combined to estimate the likelihood that your driving could result in a future collision,” Tesla wrote. It was not immediately clear what score would qualify as “good” — as characterized by Musk — in order to receive Full Self-Driving.

Musk had earlier said drivers who make frequent use of the company’s Autopilot software will be rated favorably. Owners will be able to track their progress in real-time, he said, and will be guided on how they can satisfy the requirements.

Late last month, industry group Chamber of Progress took aim at Tesla’s marketing of the technology.

Tesla’s cars “aren’t actually fully self-driving,” wrote the group, which is supported by Apple, Alphabet-owned Waymo and General Motors-backed Cruise. “The underlying issue here is that in case after case, Tesla’s drivers take their eyes off the road because they believe they are in a self-driving car. They aren’t.”

Homendy, the NTSB chair, said Tesla has not shown an active interest in improving the safety of its products. She said the board has made recommendations stemming from fatal crashes in Williston and Delray Beach, Fla., as well as Mountain View, Calif., but they have gone unanswered.

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