Tesla Full Self Driving Beta: How Close To Level 5 Autonomy? (Readers Chime In)

I just spent three 10 hour days driving 1500 miles from Utah to Wisconsin in my long-range Tesla Model 3. With two heavy mountain e-bikes destroying my aerodynamics (see Figure 1), my easy range for 75 mph driving was not much more than 100 miles. Fortunately, Tesla has installed 15 wonderful Superchargers at intervals of about 100 miles along my I-80, I-90, Minneapolis (Minnesota), and Wausau (Wisconsin) route, and I never had to wait once for a stall. Of course, I was using FSD Beta as much as possible, so I have a few new insights. I will soon have driven 165 days with FSD Beta.

Tesla FSD Beta Quirks, Issues, Questions

On my cross-country trip and now in the backwoods of Northern Wisconsin, there are many times when I can let FSD Beta V10.11.2 go without intervention. However:

  • In my opinion, the number one worst problem with FSD Beta is lane choice. More often than I would like, it chooses a lane not consistent with the correct lane needed to continue on the navigation route. For example: To follow the NAV route at an intersection, the center lane would be required. Instead, sometimes FSD Beta will actively and repeatedly put me in the right-hand lane even though I try to block it with the turn signal. You need to keep an eye on the blue FSD-intended-route line on the screen to be sure the car is not going to diverge from your route. Also, over the 1500 miles on my trip, FSD Beta would routinely change lanes for no apparent reason on Interstate highways and it never exited the passing lane even though I selected that choice in two separate places in the controls. Two days ago, on a 200-mile trip, FSD Beta exited the passing lane correctly.
  • In Utah, before I started my trip, I went through an active school zone. The yellow 20 mph lights were flashing and I could see them visualized on my screen, so I know that FSD was aware of them. However, my car did not slow down, it continued at 30 mph. A few months ago, my wife was expecting the car to slow down in a school zone like it does for other speed limit signs. It did not. She was faced with a big fine, a trip to see the judge, and a requirement to take a safety test. CleanTechnica editor Zach Shahan has also observed this behavior.
  • On my big road trip east, there were a number of one-lane construction zones where a series of construction barrels are intended to move you to the right lane. Whether FSD Beta will respond correctly to the barrels, I don’t know. I would always chicken out at the last instant for fear of hitting the barrels.

For a thorough list of FSD Beta capabilities and issues, see my previous article: “Tesla Full Self Driving Beta: How Close To Level 5 Autonomy?

Reader Comments on Tesla FSD Beta

That previous article seems to have struck a nerve. At last check, I have received 164 comments, many more than any of my previous 50 articles for CleanTechnica. A number of readers added their insights on problems that need fixing with FSD Beta, some of which I’m including below. Many of the readers have a much better understanding of AI (artificial intelligence) than me. The comments on my article make for very interesting reading, and I’ll include some of them below in a moment.

  • From Frank: FSD needs to make you comfortable. For example, I don’t want it to brake much. Regen, like I do. Anticipate the stop. I should not feel a lot of g’s, like one off ramp it goes right to exit, but cuts back to center it in the lane. I shouldn’t feel that bouncing off the right side. Not every ramp does it. I do not want it to stay dead center of a lane all the time, like next to a semi, or when there is road construction, and a lane next to a cement wall with no shoulder. Looking forward to the new release. I do use it more on highways. (Author’s note: I agree, FSD needs to make you and your passenger feel comfortable.)
  • From gavingreenwalt: The rules of my neighborhood are “20mph, when children present. Bus only from 6am til 9am. Bicycles and Motorcycles OK. Right turns permitted.” Etc… Etc… Every sign can dynamically create new rules to be understood and learned. With a team like Google’s AI team you could undoubtedly create an AI (that runs on a GPU supercomputer cluster in the cloud, not a mobile chip in a car) that works amazingly well at specific self-driving problems. But it would take months per task and you need an AI for self-driving that handles the millions of tasks in a generalized fashion. You need the equivalent not of an AI that can play StarCraft… You need an AI that can be sat down in front of Call of Duty and also play call of duty… And then be sat down on front of Go and learn Go… And then be sat down in front of The Curse of Monkey Island and solve puzzles. All at 60mph before you crash.
  • From mayaJedi: As a beta tester, great article and fair. I’d add FSD needs to:
    • slow and merge in behind cars if the next turn is close enough that it will cause them to slow down to allow your turn.
    • listen to the maps! often ignores maps
    • U-turns
    • split-exit roundabouts with closed portions should be ignored
    • Reading closed tollway signs earlier and recognizing closed lanes to take the open one.
    • Recognize when driveways are being used so it doesn’t complain when turning into my house over the red border visualization.
    • parking lot summon without cars as reference
    • map voice should say “turnING” or “takING” the next exit instead of instructing the user to. If its driving, needs to be first person.
    • When waiting for gates to open and proceeding through, show the visuals.
    • recognize and heed turn signals (Author’s note: It does great at traffic signals, but I don’t think it reacts correctly to other cars’ turn signals.)
    • When encountering caution tape blowing around, don’t assume it is a lane edge.
    • micro adjustments should be smoother and less jerky. (Author’s note: Totally agree, it drives my wife crazy.)
    • read signs and directions for detours
  • From Charlie Doyle: The very long list of necessary improvements for FSD are basically a list that one addition would address with great effectiveness: HD autonomy maps. Tesla won’t solve autonomy without making and using good autonomy maps. Humans ‘drive around without a map’ because we have human brains that quickly understand everything we look at, and we can memorize an entire city quickly, anticipating problems and navigating efficiently. FSD has no such memory or understanding of anything and won’t be able to just ‘drive around without a map’ safely any time in the foreseeable future. The current navigation maps that FSD uses are so bad that they will prevent FSD from achieving real autonomy, even if the sensors and the computer are good enough (which they are not).
  • Again, from Charlie Doyle: No, but there is a great channel called TeslaNYC that shows how hard Manhattan driving is, and how far FSD has to go. The guy doesn’t upload many videos, but his few videos are long and thorough and very interesting. FSD probably messes up about once a minute on average when driving around randomly in Manhattan. It looks pretty good at times when going straight down Fifth Avenue or Riverside Drive, but on side streets it’s a shit show. Even on the straight roads it’s quite bad and dangerous.
    FSD doesn’t need heavy rain to screw up. Lots of bikes, pedestrians, construction, cones, double-parked cars, confusing lane markings, heavy traffic, jay-walkers, traffic cops, bad infrastructure, busy roundabouts, and many other features of busy cities are far more than FSD can handle.
  • From Peter: Thanks, Arthur! My two year old Y also received FSD late last year and my wife and I are snowbirds. We use FSD in rural Wisconsin, Tucson, and in between. Next winter: Jalisco. (No FSD south of the border, I expect.) Your list represents well what we are experiencing, but I would add that it does not seem to see and react to deer, which is a big issue for us. In general, using FSD makes our road trips more relaxing, but it is necessary to stay alert and anticipate the limitations. (Authors Note: We have a lot of deer running on the highways of our area in Northern Wisconsin. I got dinged on Tesla’s safety test for braking hard for a deer. I hope FSD Beta helps to keep me from hitting a deer.)

There are additional pertinent comments from readers, but this is getting too long and I will have to save them for a future post. Or go read them here.

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