Tesla began recruiting more beta testers for its Full Self-Driving technology in March 2021, but it privately confirmed the feature is not nearly as autonomous as its name suggests. Documents sent to officials in California in 2019 and in 2020 describe the extra-cost option as a Level 2 feature, meaning Full Self-Driving is certainly not fully driverless.
“Features that comprise Autopilot are Traffic-Aware Cruise Control and Autosteer. Full Self-Driving (FSD) capability is an additional optional suite of features that builds from Autopilot and is also representative of SAE Level 2,” explained Eric Williams, the company’s associate general counsel for regulatory matters, in an email sent to a recipient at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on December 28, 2020, and spotted by The Drive.
Tesla has never claimed that Full Self-Driving (which it charges $10,000 for) turns a Model 3 or a Model Y into an autonomous car, but the emails add fuel to a fire that intensified when regulators began questioning the name in October 2020. Level 2 autonomy is defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) as a system that delivers partial driving automation. Crucially, the driver needs to remain behind the wheel and aware at all times. Full Self-Driving is not any more advanced than Cadillac’s Super Cruise or Tesla’s Autopilot; both are Level 2 systems, too.
Motorists who pay $10,000 to unlock Full Self-Driving nonetheless gain access to a generous and growing list of advanced features, including Summon, Stop Sign Control, and Auto Lane Change. Autosteer on City Streets should be added soon, according to the company. None of these features are designed to let motorists read a book, let alone take a long nap or send their car to pick up take-out while they stay home. Although Tesla will probably one day make a fully autonomous car, it still has a long way to go before Full Self-Driving lives up to its name.