Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Is ‘Misleading and Irresponsible’: NTSB


As you might already know, Tesla sells a subscription-based upgrade to its Autopilot driver assistance programming called Full Self-Driving. It costs $199 per month, or you can purchase it once and for all for $10,000. That name also suggests the cars will be able to fully drive themselves, though that’s not the case. This has been reported on in-depth since the beginning, and the National Traffic Safety Board has joined the critics’ roundtable.

Full Self-Driving is—and always will be—a Level 2 autonomous system. That means it can perform limited driving functions under human supervision and with a human ready to intervene at any time. It doesn’t actually drive itself at all and the idea the same system could power glistening, humanoid imaginary bots is an insult to your intelligence. The new head of the NTSB, Jennifer Homendy, takes note of this, calling FSD “misleading and irresponsible” in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Full Self-Driving is currently in beta testing on public roads. While it’s not available to every Tesla owner at present, Elon Musk reckons it’s only a matter of time, which is a whole different idea and rightly has people like Homendy bothered about this thing that’s called Full Self-Driving but requires human input.

The NTSB takes things like testing out software that doesn’t actually do what its name suggests on public roads, with members of the public in their cars, quite seriously. And while the NTSB doesn’t have any law-making power to stop Tesla from releasing the beta to the public, it does investigate crashes and Tesla is on the books plenty—the last investigation into a fatal crash was announced three days ago.

Homendy told WSJ, “Basic safety issues have to be addressed before they’re then expanding it to other city streets and other areas.” 

Tesla makes you click through a whole bunch of terms and conditions that say not to treat FSD as though it’s actually fully self-driving. But we’re all here on the internet clicking terms and conditions all day and sticking Q-Tips in our ears even though the box explicitly says not to do that. Plus, anyone who’s ever worked in A&E can tell you humans do not take instructions about how to use things seriously if they’ve got it into their head that they could be used for something else. 

The box-ticking is maybe—maybe—a legal get-out but the NTSB is rightly bothered about beta-testing something that doesn’t do what its name suggests on public roads. Yeah, we know you’re supposed to be awake and alert at the wheel but after half a decade of Autopilot crashes, Homendy was pretty damning of the idea of rolling out FSD.

“It has clearly misled numerous people to misuse and abuse technology,” she said of the disingenuous naming, saying people pay more attention to marketing and a name than they do warnings or manuals. 

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