November 27, 2020
Teslas can now roll through green lights automatically

Tesla’s Full Self-Driving beta is a reminder autonomous cars don’t yet exist


It’s incredibly easy to get sucked into hype. We love to see progress, technological advances and just cool things in general come to life. The idea of a car taking over the most tedious and boring parts of driving is highly appealing, but we need to always make sure we’re making progress with safety in mind.

That’s why videos of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving beta running with drivers behind the wheel bring a moment of pause. The videos seen here show off what I’m sure are just a tiny sliver of incidents Tesla owners experienced since the technology starting rolling out to cars in beta form last week. And we’ll likely see more as additional owners gain access. After all, some of them paid $8,000 for the tech. They deserve to get what they paid for.

But these videos serve as a stark reminder that this technology is not final. This is a beta, and the purpose of a beta is to continue ironing out wrinkles. In the example above, Full Self-Driving mode causes the Tesla to swerve in its lane for a few seconds. If another car were alongside, it likely would have clipped it.

Another example shows Full Self-Driving mode take a sweeping left turn through a corner, only to start positioning the car at oncoming traffic. It’s a tense and clench moment.

But it’s not just errors like the ones shown in these quick clips on Twitter. Simple things like the system identifying a double-sided stop sign so it stops in the middle of an intersection are causes for concern. Those minor mistakes could certainly lead to another driver rear-ending the Tesla. You can see this occur in the extended Full Self-Driving beta test video embedded at the top of this story.

The point of sharing these videos and associated commentary is not to bad-mouth Tesla or its technology. Full Self-Driving mode is seriously impressive with what it accomplishes without lidar and other technology rival self-driving companies use, and we should commend innovation when we see it. But we also need to approach this era with caution. Human life is invaluable and it should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds when reading the Full Self-Driving disclaimer: “It may do the wrong thing at the worst time.”


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