Full Self-Driving Beta Previews City Driving on Autopilot

The long-anticipated release of the Tesla Full Self-Driving rewrite is getting closer, rolling out to early Beta testers in October 2020 with a likely release date in early 2021. The Full Self-Driving Beta allows Autopilot to navigate on city streets, something long-promised to those who purchased the expensive Full Self-Driving upgrade package. That said, while the Full Self-Driving package will have the ability to automatically turn on city streets, despite its name, it will not be fully autonomous (Level 5), and will still require an attentive driver.

Full Self-Driving Rewrite Creates 4D Environment

At the heart of the new Full Self-Driving rewrite is the capability for the neural network computer to utilize all eight cameras around the car, allowing it to create a virtual 3D (4D with time) environment for better situational awareness.

Tesla Full Self-Driving Rewrite Creates 3D Environment
Tesla Full Self-Driving Rewrite Creates 4D Environment

Full Self-Driving on City Streets

Creating this 3D model (4D with time) is especially critical for navigating city streets since that environment is far more complex than freeway driving. It will allow the vehicle to make complex maneuvers as mentioned by Tesla in the Beta release notes:

When Full Self-Driving is enabled your vehicle will make lane changes off-highway, select forks to follow your navigation route, navigate around other vehicles and objects, and make left and right turns.

That said, because this is a software rewrite and the entire system needs to be tested, not only the new features, early beta testers are being warned to be extra vigilant:

Full Self-Driving is in early limited access beta and must be used with additional caution. It may do the wrong thing at the worst time, so you must always keep your hands on the wheel and pay extra attention to the road. Do not become complacent.

It is not clear whether the Full Self-Driving Beta testers received any other training on how to drive with this beta software outside of the warning above.

Likely Release in Early 2021

Elon stated during the Q3 2020 earnings call that Tesla hopes to release it more broadly in 2020, but also said in an earlier Tweet:

In addition, during the earnings call he said “We’re starting very slow and very cautiously because the world is a very complex and messy place”, so likely expect a public release in 2021.

Big Improvements Coming Soon

Elon said that there will be “Fundamental Improvements” coming during Thanksgiving week to the next Full Self Driving Beta release:

… and that if release looks good, he may broaden the Beta testing group:

Early Look at Full Self-Driving Beta

Early beta testers have already shown off some of the functionality. Here’s a video showing some (very excited) early testers trying it hands-on:

However it’s still has a way to go:

Handling roundabouts is a very difficult challenge:

Speed bumps also need to be handled:

As you can see, this is still very early release testing software, likely still a long ways off from public release, but has impressive capabilities.

Rapid Updates

The team at Tesla appears to be making rapid progress, releasing updates to Beta testers every 5 to 10 days, according to Elon Musk, so improvements should come quickly.

Full Self-Driving Rewrite Release

While the Full Self-Driving update still appears to be a little ways off, it’s great to see real progress being made. That said, it’s important to remember that “Full Self-Driving” still very much requires an attentive driver and is not a “Level 5” fully autonomous driving system, despite the name. However, it’s great that Tesla continues to push the envelope in this area and provide exciting new Autopilot updates and finally bring significant new assisted driving functionality to those who purchased the Full Self-Driving package. We’re excited to see what the future holds!

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