Years after its announced debut, Tesla has finally released beta version 9 of its Full Self-Driving system, albeit warning drivers that the software “may do the wrong thing at the worst time” and urging them not to become complacent at the wheel.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who over the years has become famous for missing deadlines, originally said beta version 9 was coming in 2018, then 2019, and most recently no later than this past June. At the beginning of the month, Musk again swore to Tesla fans that the update was coming and attributed the delay to generalized self-driving being harder than he thought.
In screenshots of the update’s release notes shared on social media, Tesla points out improvements in driving visualisation, which will display “additional surrounding information” on the in-car display. There are also improvements to the cabin camera above the rearview mirror that Tesla says will determine “driver inattentiveness” and provide them with audible alerts to remind them to keep their eyes on the road when using autopilot systems.
Importantly, Tesla states that images captured by this camera will not be shared if you don’t want them to be.
“Camera images do not leave the vehicle itself, which means the system cannot save or transmit information unless you enable data sharing,” the company said in its release notes.
It’s not entirely clear how much of an improvement beta version 9 will bring to Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system yet. On Friday, Musk warned that the company had been working on fixing many known issues and that something could still go wrong.
“Beta 9 addresses most known issues, but there will be unknown issues, so please be paranoid,” Musk said on Twitter. “Safety is always top priority at Tesla.”
Running preproduction software is both work & fun. Beta list was in stasis, as we had many known issues to fix.
Beta 9 addresses most known issues, but there will be unknown issues, so please be paranoid.
Safety is always top priority at Tesla.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2021
Beta version 9 is currently only accessible to those in the company’s early access program at this time, which Electrek reports consists of about 2,000 Tesla owners, the majority of which are Tesla employees.
It should be noted that despite the system’s name, the system does not allow the car to drive itself, although there is no doubt it’s an advanced driving system. In fact, it’s technically a level 2 driver-assist system, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers, which means that an automated system is doing most of the driving, steering, braking, and accelerating, but a human must be alert and ready to take over at any moment.
Even though Tesla fans greeted the update with excitement, the company’s autopilot systems are currently under enhanced scrutiny. In April, two men died in Texas after a Tesla which authorities believe had no one in the driver’s seat crashed into a tree and burst into flames. Nonetheless, over the years there have also been cases of people using Tesla’s autopilot systems asleep and drunk at the wheel or while looking at their phones.
Recently, regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a rule that requires companies to report accidents involving driver assistance or autonomous systems within one day of learning about them.