Elon Musk doesn’t seem to want to hear complaints about
most advanced driver assistance software, but resisting criticism may not be the best way to improve the company’s autonomous driving systems.
Many new cars come with driver assistance technology such as adaptive cruise control and lane assist. The most basic driver assistance functions on
(ticker: TSLA) vehicles is called Autopilot. Customers can upgrade to enhanced Autopilot, which will do a little more, such as changing lanes and parallel parking.
Full Self Driving, or FSD, is a step beyond the enhanced Autopilot and is Tesla’s most advanced system. It costs $12,000 and is designed to do most of the driving while the human behind the wheel monitors the system with eyes on the road. Eventually, Musk believes, FSD will go so far that drivers no longer have to pay attention.
The Tesla FSD Beta program is one of the ways Tesla hopes to achieve true autonomous driving. Tesla drivers with high company-generated safety scores can sign up for the program and get newer software. The feedback from beta testers helps Tesla improve its FSD product.
Some recent feedback seems to have annoyed Musk. After an FSD Beta tester posted a positive tweet and video about FSD software running a complicated left turn in heavy traffic, another beta tester noted that he was suffering from control problems with more basic driving tasks.
That response to the left-hand tweet sparked a response from Musk on Tuesday afternoon. “[FSD software version] 10.69 is in limited release for a reason,” Musk tweeted. “Please don’t ask to be included in early betas and then go complain.”
It was a relatively sharp response to a small tweet from someone hoping to improve the FSD product. Ignoring feedback may not be the way to speed up FSD development.
Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.
Anyway, this comes down to a small
(TWTR) spat. And the FSD software doesn’t improve based on tweets. Tesla receives data from the vehicles and beta testers can report specific incidents, such as a wide right turn, which Tesla uses to train its software.
In any case, FSD is already controversial. Consumer attorney Ralph Nader is calling for a recall, in part because he believes there is insufficient regulatory oversight of the product. Tesla maintains that its software improves vehicle safety.
Tesla is also pursuing self-driving technology with just optical cameras, while the rest of the industry uses a combination of cameras, radar and lidar, essentially laser-based radar.
Investors probably don’t care
beefs, but they should care about FSD software. It represents a new revenue stream for the company and will provide the foundation for a potential robotics business that Tesla could offer in the future. Better driver assistance could of course also lead to increased demand for Tesla cars.
FSD software will soon rise in price from $12,000 to $15,000. Tesla consumers have to believe that they are getting something for that extra $3,000.
Musk believes FSD is worth the money. “The value of FSD is, I think, extremely high and is not well understood by most people,” Musk said during his company’s second quarter conference call in July. “It’s actually ridiculously cheap right now.”
It’s hard to say what FSD is contributing to Tesla’s stock price. Stocks tend to fluctuate in response to news about vehicle deliveries, manufacturing profits and profit margins. Reports on FSD do not move the stock in the same way. FSD’s biggest impact on business and inventory is still underway.
Tesla stock rose about 0.8% in premarket trading on Monday. Futures on the
were both 0.1% higher.
Write to Al Root at email@example.com