What Is Tesla FSD and How Does It Work?

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In October 2021, the beta version of Tesla Full Self-Driving went into wide release. It is now available for many Tesla drivers to install for the first time.

Self-driving is not the only reason to own a Tesla. But outside of electronic power, it’s probably what the vehicles are best known for. It is also something that many people believe to be a significant improvement over how we drive today.

So what exactly is Tesla FSD, and how does it work?


What Is Tesla FSD?

Full Self-Driving is the newest driver assistance software offered by Tesla. The term “full self-driving” isn’t necessarily accurate, but vehicles equipped with the software will require less driver input than ever before.

Tesla vehicles have had autopilot for many years, but this software only worked in specific situations. FSD offers a significant improvement and allows Tesla vehicles to operate with only a small amount of driver input, even on roads with traffic lights.

FSD is currently only available as a beta product. However, it’s not finished, and users who sign up are given regular software updates as the software improves. In the United States, it costs $10,000 upfront or $199 per month.

This is not the first time that FSD has been released. It was previously made available to approximately 2,000 employees and customers. However, this beta program is significantly larger and is expected to result in a big increase in users of the technology.

How Does Tesla FSD Work?

All Tesla vehicles are equipped with eight external cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors. The information picked up by these components is then processed using a powerful onboard computer.

The system can detect vehicles, pedestrians, any obstacles, traffic lights, road signs, and anything written on the road, such as lanes and words.

The computer uses artificial intelligence, neural nets, and machine learning to react to driving conditions in real-time.

All information processed by the onboard computer is displayed on the dash. Some decisions, such as slowing down for other cars, are performed automatically. While other actions, such as switching routes, are only performed with the driver’s permission.

What Does Tesla FSD Actually Do?

Tesla FSD allows the vehicle to perform several tasks not possible with standard autopilot.

  • On freeways, it allows the driver to select an off-ramp and have the car drive to that off-ramp automatically. This includes the ability to change lanes and even switch freeways, provided you agree.
  • It allows lane changes to be made automatically by pressing the turn signal.
  • It allows the driver to summon the car from its parking place. This means that you can stand outside a car park and the car will pick you up. This is only available over short distances as the car would obviously be empty.
  • It allows the car to park itself automatically at the press of a button. This includes both parallel and perpendicular parking.
  • It alerts the driver to the presence of traffic lights and stop signs and will slow down accordingly. It does not have the ability to turn at intersections without human assistance.


Is Tesla FSD Autonomous?

Tesla FSD is not autonomous. Tesla does not currently offer this feature in any of its vehicles. Instead, the software is designed to perform tasks independently but only under the supervision of a human driver.

This is a very important distinction because the software, and self-driving cars in general, are still something of an experimental concept. They are considered safe but simply haven’t been tested sufficiently.

All Tesla vehicles can monitor the driver. If the driver is not paying attention, the car will sound an alarm, and if the alarm is ignored, the car will pull over automatically.

It’s important to note that Tesla aims to provide fully autonomous vehicles in the future. Doing so is not just a matter of technological improvement but may also require changes to existing driving regulations.


Why Is Tesla FSD Controversial?

The introduction of Tesla FSD has been met with some criticism. It’s considered controversial because the software is unfinished and is being tested by untrained drivers on public roads.

The occasional bug is not only possible but pretty much expected. The name of the software is also potentially misleading.

Elon Musk probably didn’t help public opinion with a recent tweet in which he suggested that the beta program was so good, some users may get the wrong idea and believe that they don’t need to pay attention while driving.

Announcements made regarding the software have repeatedly stated that driver attention is required at all times. Despite the controversy, the beta program is going ahead and Tesla is not in breach of any regulations.

Who Is Tesla FSD Available To?

If you drive a Tesla in the United States, the beta program may be already available to you. It’s specifically available to drivers with a good “safety score.”

This score is based on driver behavior and includes factors such as whether you turn aggressively or follow other cars too closely.

In order to qualify for the beta program, you need to have an almost perfect safety score for the previous week.

How Do You Sign Up for Tesla FSD?

If you’d like to try Tesla FSD, there is now a newly created button on the dashboard of all Tesla vehicles with the appropriate hardware.

The button doesn’t grant immediate access but instead requests that Tesla monitors your driving for seven days. Provided your driving is considered safe, you will then be offered the chance to purchase a subscription to the software.

Is Tesla FSD Worth Trying?

Tesla FSD is proving popular with Tesla drivers and is potentially worth trying. Before doing so, however, it is important to understand what it does and does not offer.

It is a significant improvement over standard autopilot but the term “full self-driving” isn’t really accurate. It requires driver input and should not be treated as autonomous.

It is also not a finished software product, and users should adjust their expectations accordingly. Remember, you must remain alert and in control of your vehicle at all times, even with Tesla FSD switched on.



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