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Tesla's New 'Full Self-Driving' Beta Software is Being Closely Watched by U.S. Regulators

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【Summary】The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was closely watching Tesla’s latest beta software that launched on Tuesday, which allows its vehicles to drive themselves without human intervention. The NHTSA said it was standing by and ready to protect the public against safety risks.

FutureCar Staff    Oct 22, 2020 1:55 PM PT
Tesla's New 'Full Self-Driving' Beta Software is Being Closely Watched by U.S. Regulators

Electric automaker Tesla released the latest and most advanced version of its autonomous driving feature as a beta software update called" Full Self Driving" on Tuesday to a select group of drivers.

In a recent tweet, Tesla's Chief Executive Musk announced that a limited release of the automaker's Full Self-Driving suite would be out on Tuesday, October 20 and the company has made good on its claim. 

Tesla rolled out the new self-driving features "to a limited number of people who are expert & careful drivers", Musk tweeted, without elaborating. The select drivers could access the new autonomous driving features beginning on Tuesday.

During a Tesla earnings call on Wednesday, Chief Executive Elon Musk said the system is becoming more capable as Tesla continues to collect more data from drivers that's being used to make continuous improvements.

However the launch of the new Full Self-Driving software is being carefully watched by U.S. auto safety regulators on Thursday, according to Reuters

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was closely watching Tesla's latest software, which allows its vehicles to drive themselves without human intervention. The NHTSA said it was standing by and ready to protect the public against safety risks.

"NHTSA has been briefed on Tesla's new feature, which represents an expansion of its existing driver assistance system. The agency will monitor the new technology closely and will not hesitate to take action to protect (the) public against unreasonable risks to safety," the NHTSA said in a statement.

The NHTSA has been closely monitoring Tesla for the past several years after a series of crashes, including fatalities, that occured while its Autopilot system was engaged.

NHTSA in July said its special crash investigation team had "looked into 19 crashes involving Tesla vehicles where it was believed some form of advanced driver assistance system was engaged at the time of the incident."

The latest software has been promised for quite some time by Musk. The mercurial Chief Executive has promised that Tesla would offer fully self-driving vehicles for years. But up until the release this week, the company missed several of its self-imposed deadlines.

Without a regulatory framework in place in the U.S., self-driving vehicles capable of operating on public roads without human oversight are still years away.

A consortium of self-driving technology companies, Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE), which includes Ford Motor Co, General Motors and Alphabet's self-driving unit Waymo, criticized Tesla's seemingly rushed approach for deployment of the beta software for public roads.

"Public road testing is a serious responsibility and using untrained consumers to validate beta-level software on public roads is dangerous and inconsistent with existing guidance and industry norms," PAVE said in a Thursday statement.

Despite the industry backlash, Tesla owners can now purchase "Full Self Driving" for an additional $8,000 in hopes of eventually receiving the upgrade to their vehicle in the future, but the price increased by another $2,000 on Monday, Musk said on Thursday.

However, Tesla cautiously doesn't refer to its system as "full self-driving" on its Autopilot Support web page. Instead, Tesla describes its Autopilot as a "advanced driver assistance system that enhances safety and convenience behind the wheel." 

"When used properly, Autopilot reduces your overall workload as a driver," Tesla's website reads.

"Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment. While these features are designed to become more capable over time, the currently enabled features do not make the vehicle autonomous," Tesla wrote on its website.

The advanced system is supported by 8 external cameras, a radar, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a powerful onboard computer provide an additional layer of safety, but its only for newer Tesla vehicles. Cars built between September 2014 and October 2016 include a single camera and less-powerful radar and ultrasonic sensors.

There are two Autopilot packages available for purchase, "Autopilot" and "Full Self-Driving Capability."

Regardless of the heightened scrutiny from regulators and what the rest of the auto industry thinks about Tesla's new Full Self-Driving Capability, the advanced system is already receiving high marks from Tesla owners that have access to it.

One Twitter user posted videos of their experience, claiming the car "literally sees everything."

During Tesla's Q3 earnings call, Musk said that Tesla's "Full Self-Driving" software should be available in a wide-release by the end of 2020 to all drivers who purchased the upgrade, which now costs an additional $10,000 as of Monday.  


resource from: Reuters

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