My wife and I have now driven our Tesla Model 3 for just over three years. Our odometer reads 82,777 miles, thanks in part to some coast-to-coast trips, and we still love it.
Just over a year ago on October 21, 2021, my wife and I first got access to Tesla “Full Self Driving” (FSD) Beta. We have obsessively used it every day since except, when we have lost access. In the ~7 months that we have used FSD Beta, we have had no accidents.
Recently, Tesla-centric websites have been buzzing with reports from drivers who are testing the new V11 of FSD Beta, which is supposed to be a big improvement over the versions we have been using for a year now. When I was recently notified that a software update was ready to be downloaded, it was with great anticipation that I accepted and did the download. I was very disappointed that the download was not the vaunted V11, but a more incremental “improvement” named V10.69.3.1.
Last Friday, I awakened my 11-year-old grandson and we began our early morning 50-mile commute to Brighton Ski Resort. We drive 30 miles from our home up I-15 to Salt Lake City, then 20 miles up the very tight turns in Big Cottonwood Canyon to the Brighton resort where I teach alpine skiing to customers and my grandson.
Five Strikes and You’re Out!
I was disappointed but not shocked when I lost access to Full Self Driving again before I made the turn up the Canyon. Tesla has a procedure that if it detects what it calls unsafe driving five times, you are blacklisted and lose access to the “self-driving” software. I was blacklisted some months ago and lost access to the software for ~80 days until I got it back with a new version of the software. Here I am, Déjà Vu all over again! I’ve lost access and probably won’t see it again until the vaunted V11 version of the software is released to me.
Tesla has three methods to detect what it calls unsafe driving: 1) If you don’t tug on the steering wheel often enough. 2) Tesla has a camera just above the rear view mirror that is watching your face, and if you take your eyes off the road to look at the navigation/control screen to your right or look down at your phone for too long, you get dinged. It may even be able to tell if your eyes are closed. 3) You will also get immediately dinged if you exceed 85 mph while FSD Beta is engaged. If you persist with unsafe driving long enough, you get a forced disengagement. Five of these and you lose access to the software.
I call Tesla’s system double jeopardy. If you don’t tug at the steering wheel or look at the road often enough, you get dinged. However, you have to take your eyes off the road and look at the screen to your right to see the blue blinking warning signal at the top of the screen. I would think by now that if I obsessively concentrated on the road, I would not only be safe, but would not lose access to FSD Beta. Wrong! Apparently, you need to somehow concentrate on the road and the screen to your right at the same time. Beyond that technical issue, I was only aware that I had failed 3 times, not the promised 5 times. As a final complaint, it is odd that you are not informed of your exact offense(s). That makes it harder to correct any issues and prevent being suspended from the beta program.
Standard Autosteer & Smart Cruise Capability with Every Tesla Sticks Around
Every Tesla has very powerful automatic lane keeping capability. It keeps your car in the center of the lane as well as the most expert and attentive drivers can do, even on quite high g-force turns. Smart Cruise will also automatically slow down your car for sharp turns. However, you must keep tugging at the steering wheel frequently or Tesla will block your access to the autosteer capability. It is very annoying, but also fairly easily remedied. You just have to put your car in park and then put it in drive again. At that point, the autosteer function is restored. However, unfortunately, it’s not that simple to get back FSD Beta when you lose access. You have to wait for a new software download.
What I Hate the Most Now that I’m Back in No-FSD-Beta Purgatory!
- My car will no longer make all turns automatically as dictated by the navigation system. Now the navigation lady’s voice tells me when to turn, but I have to make the turns myself. (Note: Even with FSD Beta, I needed to encourage the turns with my accelerator pedal to fit into the gap merging onto a busy street and to keep the driver behind me from getting annoyed by FSD Beta’s timid operation at intersections with two stop signs. Not intuitively, it’s not as timid at 4-way stops.)
- My car will no longer make the sharp turns necessary to navigate mountain hairpins or rotary/roundabouts. It will bail out halfway through.
- I no longer have autosteer functionality on two-lane roads with no painted lines. (There are many of these in rural Northern Wisconsin where we spend our summers.)
- Ultra-annoying: I have to signal my approval or my car will stop at green lights
Background on Getting Access to FSD Beta
I paid $6,000 extra for Full Self Driving when I bought my Tesla Model 3 in October 2019. The cost to add Full Self Driving to your existing Tesla or with new Tesla purchases is now $15,000. I understand that my wife and I are among the ~160,0000 customers who have had access to FSD Beta for at least a few months. However, Elon Musk has announced that all of the many thousands more who live in North America and have purchased Full Self Driving will get access to FSD Beta in the near future.
For over 300 days, my wife and I have obsessively used and observed Tesla FSD Beta in our Model 3 through 8 versions of the software — V10.5, V10.8, V10.10, V10.11.2.1, V10.12.2, V10.69, V10.69.2.4, and now V10.69.3.1.
Observations with Latest Software Release: V10.69.3.1
I was only able to use V10.69.3.1 for about 30 miles before access was stripped from me. However, I made the following observations:
- On merging onto State Street in Lindon, Utah, FSD Beta V10.69.3.1 turned my car into a wide bike lane on the right and then jerked left into the proper lane after 20 yards just as it has done with previous versions of the software. One of the big complaints with FSD Beta through all versions of the software has been the occasional selection of a lane inconsistent with the navigation route.
- I observed another case of phantom braking while driving north on I-15. Phantom braking has been a common occurrence with FSD Beta through all versions of the software. However, in this case on I-15, the map speed limit temporarily dropped incorrectly from 70 mph to 35 mph. Therefore, the braking may have been a reaction to the change in the map speed limit rather than reacting to some minor blip observed by the cameras.
More Tesla FSD News
The news here takes a moment to get to and comes in the third paragraph below this one.
Tesla has always used a system of detecting a small amount of torque on the steering wheel to judge whether the driver is paying attention. However, if the torque is too much, the autosteer system is immediately deactivated. It can be very annoying to provide just the correct amount of torque. Also, the system only detects if you have a hand on the steering wheel, not if you are actually paying attention to the road. All recent model Teslas have a camera above the rearview mirror that is now used to determine if you are actually looking at the road.
Some drivers have used simple methods to defeat the torque detection system. Some have just placed a water bottle on one of the steering wheel’s cross bar, while others have strapped a weight to a crossbar. This can be very effective since it can supply just the right amount of torque to the wheel. However, any driver who uses a technique like this as a substitute for paying attention to the road is very foolish. FSD Beta makes predictable and unpredictable mistakes from time to time that require your constant attention.
According the latest reports, Tesla is able to detect the use of a defeat system and will record a forced disengagement and block your use of FSD Beta if you continue to use it.
CleanTechnica Chief Editor Zach Shahan and I have written numerous articles about Tesla FSD Beta that can be accessed here. Please add your observations via the comments section, especially about FSD Beta V10.69.3.1 and beyond.
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Source: Clean Technica