Tesla Will Offer “Full Self-Driving Beta” to Some Drivers Next Week

Does that mean there will be fully autonomous Teslas on the road?

Tesla Model Y SUV
A beta version of full self-driving is reportedly coming to some Tesla vehicles next week.

Remember when we said Tesla had scrapped its PR team and surmised that Elon Musk would become a one-man public relations department? That seems to have played out, as blockbuster news about the electric car company’s autonomous tech has come solely from the CEO’s Twitter account. 

According to Musk, Tesla will be launching a beta version of its full self-driving (FSD) functionality on October 20 “to a small number of people who are expert & careful drivers.”

As we’ve previously discussed in detail, Tesla’s history with self-driving and autonomous technology in cars has been confusing at best and deliberately misleading at worst. The company has been integrating its so-called Autopilot hardware and software since 2014, and while the nomenclature might convince you the cars drive themselves, that’s far from the case. Up until now, Autopilot has been a slate of sophisticated driver assistance features, nothing more.

However, some Tesla vehicles — those equipped with “Full Self-Driving Capability” — supposedly have the ability to drive themselves once Tesla finalizes the program. And with Musk’s announcement that a beta version is almost ready for release, it appears they’re getting that much closer.

But let’s be clear: Tesla is not about to have fully autonomous cars on the road. As Electrek notes, while these new Autopilot updates may allow beta test drivers to go from point A to B “without interventions,” “this update will still require drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and be ready to take control at all times.” In other words, no sleeping allowed.

In rolling out this limited FSD, Tesla will continue its practice of beta testing new features in the real world with real drivers, something it’s previously done with things like Smart Summon — which allowed drivers to summon their car from a parking space to their desired location without anyone in the driver’s seat. There are pros and cons to this; the pros mainly go to Tesla — as beta testing in the wild allows the company to gather tons of data and more quickly perfect the technology for a full release — as well as drivers who like to feel that they’re part of pushing forward EV and autonomous tech; the cons go to everyone else on the road who didn’t sign up to be part of Musk’s science project.

In short, we don’t know what a “limited full self-driving beta” will officially entail. But if you own a Tesla with full self-driving capability, be on the lookout next Tuesday for an update. And if you live near people with Teslas, be on the lookout for anyone dozing off in the driver’s seat.

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