Tesla update might make Full Self-Driving truly hands-off
Tesla‘s Full Self-Driving (FSD) set of features allows the car to essentially drive itself in certain scenarios. A safety feature is keeping drivers from going completely hands-off, though, but CEO Elon Musk said drivers will soon get the option to disable it.
The feature in question is the steering wheel nag, which requires the driver to constantly keep their hands on the steering wheel; if they don’t, the car asks them to move the steering wheel a little every now and then to make sure they’re paying attention.
Recently, a Twitter user suggested (via Teslarati) that “users with more than 10,000 miles on FSD Beta should be given the option to turn off the steering wheel nag,” and Musk agreed, saying that an update (presumably bringing this functionality) is coming in January.
With this update, Tesla drivers should be able to turn on FSD and completely keep their hands off the steering wheel while the car drives itself. Some owners have expressed enthusiasm about the feature on Twitter, though it may raise more questions on whether FSD is mature enough to be allowed on public roads.
Tesla has another way to make sure whether the driver is paying attention – the built-in cabin camera which should issue warnings or even employ the brakes if it detects an inattentive driver. There are a couple of problems with this approach, however. First, not all Tesla vehicles have the cabin camera, which might mean that owners of these cars simply won’t get the option to turn off the steering wheel nags.
More importantly, a Consumer Reports report dated Dec. 2021 (and updated June 2022) found that Tesla’s camera-based driver monitoring wasn’t an adequate solution for making sure the driver is paying attention to the road, though it’s unclear whether Tesla has improved the system since.
Tesla’s FSD (still designated as “beta” by Tesla) is a set of features that allows the driver to enter a destination into the car’s navigation system, and have the car drive there on its own, though it requires the driver to be attentive and ready to take over at all times. FSD was initially made available to a very small subset of users, but it was later expanded to drivers who satisfy Tesla’s “Safety Score” requirements. Last November, however, it was made available to all users whose Tesla cars have the hardware to support it.
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FSD has also gotten Tesla into trouble, with regulators investigating issues such as phantom braking. A Tesla driver recently told California authorities that his car’s FSD tech malfunctioned, causing a crash involving eight vehicles on the San Francisco Bay bridge in November 2022. As of Dec. 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was looking into 41 crashes involving Tesla cars where some of Tesla’s autonomous driving features were engaged.