Why Tesla Won’t Let You Modify Their Software (And Why That Might Be A Good Thing)

Hot rod culture has been around for as long as car culture. Ever since man found a way to get from point A to point B, we’ve been strapping new things on our cars to get there just a little bit faster. But what if rather than say, swapping out a few belts for an extra 50 horsepower, you just had to modify your car’s software?

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Full Self-Driving Might Be Closer Than We Expected

We’ve been hearing that full self-driving has been on the horizon for years at this point. With many failed promises from Tesla, and the release of FSD being constantly pushed back, it doesn’t feel like it’s ever coming. But we’ve gotten a new expected release date from Elon Musk. And this time, it might actually be happening.

We’ve known for quite some time that Tesla has been working on a complete rewrite of the foundation of Autopilot. This has naturally slowed visible progress on Autopilot, as the majority of work was being done behind the scenes. We have still seen some progress, such as the interesting traffic light and stop sign control feature. But the addition of that feature still doesn’t get us anywhere near FSD.

That rewrite is nearly done, and apparently we can expect the first rollout of FSD in 6-10 weeks.

This “quantum leap” could be very exciting. With the rewrite of Autopilot nearly finished, we’ll finally see all the work Tesla has been putting in over the past couple of years. Things like traffic light and stop sign control and summon were really just finding ways to push the limits of the old system. But with the new system, Elon says he can make his commute with almost 0 interventions. That is light-years ahead of what we’ve got currently.

But I am worried that Elon says “Almost at zero interventions”. Almost 0 interventions is still more than 0 interventions. I wouldn’t say it’s full self-driving if it still requires some intervention. That almost could be interpreted in many ways. It would only require intervention in rare circumstances, and Elon used almost to not imply Autopilot is a perfect system.

But I think there are real problems with an almost perfect system. I’d say it may even be more dangerous than an obviously imperfect system. People have been abusing the limited capabilities of Autopilot for years. If the system only rarely requires intervention, I imagine many more drivers will be act carelessly.

I could be worried about nothing. But if the new Autopilot system isn’t able to handle almost every situation safely, at least parking the car when conditions are not favorable for the system, we will have problems. I’m sure Tesla has thought of this, and hopefully, the system does a good job of alerting drivers when they need to take control.

I just hope we don’t see too many people falling asleep at the wheel. This is a very new technology and it will take time to audit it’s capabilities and establish regulations. Hopefully we won’t see too many careless drivers before that happens.

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Tesla’s Autopilot Continues To Get Cooler, But Not Without Some Minor Hiccups

Though full self-driving is still quite a ways off, Tesla’s Autopilot has certainly been making some strides in recent months. Their new Traffic Light And Stop Sign Control feature allows the car to stop at intersections automatically. The feature requires input from the driver to give the car permission to proceed through an intersection at a green light. But Tesla is nearly ready to expand its functionality.

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Tesla Is Working On A Monthly Subscription Service for Autopilot

With the release of the new Traffic Light and Stop Sign control feature, many people want to upgrade. But the cost is going up soon, so if you can’t buy now you might be out of luck. Thankfully, Tesla is working on a subscription service to make their self-driving features more accessible. But could subscriptions come back to bite us?

How much would you pay for FSD?

Many people have criticized Tesla for charging thousands of dollars for the promise of features to come. But maybe more people would be willing to pay a monthly subscription for the current self-driving features that are available. The FSD features work better for some routes, so people could test the feature out for their own commute without forking over thousands of dollars.

Electrek reports that such a subscription might not be too far off. Noted Tesla hacker, Green, found evidence of such a subscription in the Tesla app.

It seems like once FSD is more feature-complete Tesla might release this subscription plan, which makes sense. Paying for the FSD upgrade is generally seen as early access crowdfunding, for those who are very excited about the tech. But those paying for a subscription service wouldn’t as be happy about buggy features in beta.

Opening Pandora’s Box

So we’ll be able to access FSD features for cheaper, that’s great right? I’m not so sure, and I think a move like this is bound to flare up plenty of debate.

Paying seven thousand dollars for autopilot software is a hard pill to swallow. Paying a monthly subscription fee is much easier. But I’m worried a subscription plan like this might open the doors for many more paywalls. It doesn’t have to be Tesla, some car company is going to see this and take the subscription model too far.

We’ve already seen that Tesla is able to increase performance through over the air software updates. Any EV company with a similar system could do the same to decrease performance. Then they could charge you a monthly subscription to use full power.

This might sound a bit tinfoil hat, but the potential is there. I’ve always been conflicted about paying for software to make full use of the car’s computer. But I understand why Tesla needs to do that to fund the development of the tech. But expanding that to a subscription service will slowly make paying to unlock features of a car more normalized.

We’re not going to see a car that requires an air conditioner subscription next year. But that kind of thing won’t come quickly. A subscription to FSD opens the door to that, and will slowly make people open up to more subscription services. It sounds ridiculous, but if you’ve been paying for an FSD subscription for years, the right marketing will make a “performance mode” subscription sound just fine.

I don’t think an FSD subscription is a bad thing. It will make the tech available to many more people, and make our roads safer. But I’m going to be keeping my eyes out for any new subscription services that might take things too far.

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Tesla Rolls Out Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control

After much build-up, Tesla has finally rolled out their Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control feature to the general public. We looked at this feature in early access last week. It allows Teslas with the Hardware 3 package and Full Self-Driving upgrade to stop autonomously at stop signs and stoplights. But it certainly has it’s limitations.

Definitely still in beta

Just like when they rolled out highway navigation on autopilot, Tesla is being very careful about rolling out this feature. The feature is very conservative, requiring the driver to give the car permission to proceed through every intersection. Black Tesla made a great review of this new update with some impressive footage of the feature in action.

When the car approaches a traffic light or stop sign it will display a red line on the ground where the car will stop, even if the light is green. By pressing the accelerator or tapping the gear shift the car will proceed through the intersection.

While that sounds incredible, there’s one thing that holds back this feature in its current state. It can’t turn through intersections. This greatly limits the situations where this feature could be useful.

There are also many situations that seem to confuse autopilot. Black Tesla demonstrated that in some situations it’s possible to give the Tesla permission to proceed through a red light, and it will drive through the intersection. From the leaked manual we read last week this does not seem to be intended behavior. We hope Tesla can fix this safety issue very quickly.

Some signage or flashing lights could lead to false positives, forcing you to tell the car to proceed through an imaginary intersection. For many drivers just driving themselves would be more convenient than giving the car permission to proceed through every single intersection in a packed city.

An amazing first step

But maybe that’s looking at things wrong. Everyone bashed the limitations of highway navigation on autopilot when that came out. But now thousands of drivers with long highway commutes enjoy a less stressful drive, unconcerned that the car can’t drive itself in the city.

We all want feature-complete Full Self-Driving. And Tesla’s ambitious timelines can make this seemingly slow progress frustrating. But this does expand the number of people who autopilot is useful for. If your commute has interspersed traffic lights over a long, straight road then this feature will make driving a lot more convenient.

And as Tesla is able to collect more real-world driving data the feature will improve. Eventually, they’ll be able to remove the requirement for permission to proceed through an intersection. Some day they’ll even be able to turn, and the majority of your commute will be able to be done on autopilot. Elon said that after the autopilot core rewrite new features would come quickly, we’ll just have to see how quick he means.

Until then though, those who can take advantage of this feature will love it. But in situations where you can drive better than your car, you probably should still be the one driving.

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