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Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (Supervised) in 2024: Impressive Enough to be Dangerous

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April 2024 was an interesting month for Tesla owners and Tesla itself.

Like many others, we received an unsolicited month-long free trial of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) for our 2023 Model 3 in the last days of March. There was a twist: the feature’s name was literally spelled “Full Self-Driving (Supervised).” It’s a bit of an oxymoron—it’s not “full” if it needs supervision. I already lamented Tesla’s choice of names the last time I tried FSD, a couple of years ago, with our 2021 Model Y.

Apparently, since the beginning of Q2 2024, Tesla has sent out invitations for the FSD trial for all drivers. The promotion was ramped up during the late March—early April period. If you have a Tesla without FSD or EPA, chances are you’ll also get an invite if you haven’t already.

Also, during the month, Tesla quietly lowered the one-time cost of FSD to $8000 (from $12000) and the subscription to $99/month (from $199). Perhaps more significantly, the company laid off 10% of its global workforce.

I tried the “new” FSD, both on the freeway and on the street, and found it working well just enough to be scary. (My favorite part of FSD, Summon, which allows remote control of the car at a close distance, wasn’t available with the trial.)

Full Self Driving (Supervised)
Here’s Full Self-Driving (Supervised) in action. The screen shows live objects in real-time, and it’s generally a good thing when all that you can see registers accurately on the screen.

Full Self-Driving (Supervised): Let’s call it Supervised Self-Driving already!

For the uninitiated, Full-Self Driving is the more robust version of Autopilot, which comes standard with virtually all Tesla cars.

Autopilot itself is an enhanced Cruise feature that can automatically maintain speed, maintain a safe distance from a vehicle in the front, and steer—it can keep the car within the lane. The feature requires the driver to periodically prove their presence by putting pressure on the steering wheel, but it works great for long road trips.

On the other hand, FSD promises a few more advanced steering and control functions, supposedly enough almost to take you home. For almost a decade, this feature was always in beta, and a couple of years ago, I predicted that it would never live up to the “Full” notion due to the lack of hardware sensors.

The table below summarizes the differences between these levels of driving automation.

AutopilotEnhanced Autopilot or EAPFull Self-Driving or FSD
IntegrationDefaultAdded/removed via software
Current CostIncluded in all Teslas, as a standard feature$6000 one-time cost
(only available in certain markets)
$12000 $8000(*) one-time cost ($2000 from EAP), or via subscriptions:
$199 $99(*)/month from Autopilot
– $99/month from EAP
Features– Traffic-Aware Cruise Control,
– Autosteer (beta)
All features of Autopilot, plus:
– Navigate on Autopilot,
– Auto Lane Change,
– Autopark,
– Summon,
– Smart Summon
All Features of Enhanced Autopilot, plus:
– Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control (beta),
– Autosteer on city streets (Coming Soon)
Driving Automation LevelLevel 2Level 3
(barely)
Tesla Autopilot vs. Enhanced Autopilot vs. Full Self-Driving
(*) Since April 2024.

To summarize that tiresome story countless car and tech writers have wasted hours and hours of screen time covering: Tesla first introduced Full Self-Driving in 2015, and Elon Musk repeatedly promised that it’d be at “level 5” driving automation at some point, “by 2021” per his last claim.

That brings us to the present day. April 2024 will be remembered as the first time Full Self-Driving was no longer labeled as “(Beta)”. Instead, it put “(Supervised)” in place, removing the long-standing insinuation of true driving automation from the existing Tesla fleet, just like I had predicted.

To be fair, Tesla has always made it clear in the manual that FSD is in beta, isn’t yet full driving automation, and requires human supervision. But most people don’t read the instructions and understandably take the feature by its name. Some have possibly died because of that.

Full Self Driving has its beta replaced by Supervised
In April 2024, Tesla’s Full Self-Driving replaced the (Beta) notion with (Supervised) to, once and for all, remove the long-standing insinuation of true driving automation from the existing Tesla fleet.

2024 Full Self-Driving (Supervised): Minor but noticeable improvements

The first time I tried FSD on our 2021 Model Y Long Range, it was in version 9. This time around, it was version 12.3.x To put things in perspective, there have been over 50 minor and major releases since version 10. So, it’s fair to expect a significant level of improvement.

And the feature indeed improved over time. The question is to what extent.

You don’t need FSD to know that the feature has gotten slightly better. If you use Autopilot, which is essentially the stripped-down version of FSD and available in all Teslas, you’ll note the improvement over the years. For example, the phantom braking issue—the car suddenly slows down greatly for no reason—is practically no longer a problem by late 2023.

Still, Autopilot has consistently been far from perfect. I use it often, and my biggest complaint is that it always keeps the car in the dead middle of the lane and never wiggles just a little bit to avoid potholes or not-so-small objects like a brick or even a broken tire. And when I intervene to avoid those things, the feature automatically disengages.

With Full Self-Driving (Supervised), the same issue remains: The car maintains the center-lane alignment and automatically disengages when the driver intervenes with the steering. But, to outdo Autopilot, it also automatically changes lanes, passes slower traffic, enters/exits the freeway, handles traffic lights, takes street turns, and so on. It tries to take you all the way home. That’s the idea, anyway.

Compared to a few years ago, FSD is now more refined, especially on the freeway. The car’s screen often tells you what it’s about to do and the reason, such as “change to the faster lane,” and handles the blinkers accordingly. Generally, on a nice day, lane changing was relatively uneventful.

Our Model 3 could also pass another car quite smoothly and no longer continuously wanted to pass if the vehicle in the front was traveling at just a slightly slower pace. Overall, it felt more natural from the moment it entered the freeway till when it took the exit.

That was generally the case when the traffic was light with a good flow.

Full Self-Driving (Supervised): It gets old fast

But light traffic can be a luxury. And during my month-long trial, FSD didn’t perform well in heavy traffic or bustling streets.

Moving into a busy lane usually took too long, even when the car behind yielded and left a large gap. Furthermore, left turns and right turns on streets were often done either too aggressively or too gingerly.

The car also often picked the wrong lane for an upcoming turn and ended up having to change lanes more times than necessary—it didn’t think very far ahead. And did I mention that it had a hard time merging into a busy lane?

In many cases, FSD felt like a student driver I couldn’t count on when I needed to get from A to B quickly. And then there were instances where Full Self-Driving (Supervised) was totally odd and outright scary.

Tesla Full Self Driving Supervised month long trial messages
The messages we got from Tesla relating to its Full Self Driving (Supervised) month-long trial.

Full Self-Driving (Supervised): The unpleasant experiences

During the month, I often took our Model 3 to get from my home to the gym, which was just a few miles away, mainly to see how FSD could handle the streets during rush hours. And every single time, I experienced something odd.

The hesitancy and aggressiveness mentioned above aside, the car’s FSD now and then disengaged by itself and then showed a prompt on the screen for a survey. It was kind of ironic because, in my case, I needed to take over the driving, and it wanted me to be distracted from that by giving it a voice message. And it got worse.

One day, crossing an intersection proved scary. I was traveling using FSD at around 35 MPH—paying full attention with hands on the steering wheel, mind you!—and just a few feet away from the crosswalk, the traffic lights changed from green to yellow. Instead of continuing as any typical driver would do, the Model 3 abruptly slammed on the brakes to a complete stop. I was startled by its action and even more by the angry honking of the car behind, which almost rear-ended me. I felt a bit embarrassed, if not ashamed.

Finally, I noted that while the new FSD was better than it was years ago at seeing parked cars on the right side of the road, it was still terrible at recognizing those parked on the left.

During my trial, the Model 3 passed a parked service truck at full freeway speed with just inches of clearance between the two—the lack of Radar and Sonar sensors, which were removed thanks to Elon Musk’s Tesla Vision nonsense, must have played a role. If that truck had been just a bit more into the far left lane, I could have been in a serious accident. Curious, I paid more attention and found out that vehicles parked on the left shoulder often weren’t registered on the car’s screen—the Tesla seemed to not “see” them.

Full Self Driving Supervised automatically disengaged
Full Self-Driving (Supervised) might disengage by itself and then ask the driver to describe the “experience.”

Full Self-Driving (Supervised) vs. Autopilot

As mentioned, for years, I’ve used Autopilot regularly, which proved to be an excellent tool during long road trips. In many ways, it’s much better than FSD since it’s predictable. You can sit there and know what it will and will not do. And on a long drive, taking over once in a while to make a pass or take an exit can be a good thing.

Full Self-Driving (Supervised), on the other hand, does a lot of stuff by itself. And while you sort of know what it will do—such as passing, changing lanes, taking an exit, etc.—you don’t know how exactly and when it’ll do those. And it needs your attention all the time via messages and prompts on the center screen, which also gets old fast.

In the end, with FSD, you can never relax and enjoy a cup of coffee, making it totally pointless (compared to Autopilot) when you’re over that short honeymoon phase of finding a car that can handle lane changing and passing by itself “fascinating.” In fact, during the month-long trial, I spilled hot coffee on myself, thinking it would behave like Autopilot.

The practical reason we get in a car is to reach a destination. The “(Supervised)” notion makes FSD more of “Hey! Look how I can drive the car!” than getting you there. If you really want to watch how a car is driven, I’d recommend getting an Uber or a taxi.

Finally, FSD drives like a machine, which it is, and lacks a human touch. Certain aspects of driving can sometimes be a split-second decision based on your eye contact with other drivers and their signals. Without the human aspect, FSD always takes too much time during critical moments. It might work well when surrounded by other cars of the same technology, but among mortal humans, I wouldn’t be surprised if it caused road rage due to misunderstanding.

Here’s the annoying part: Once turned on, Full Self-Driving (Supervised) automatically works each time you start navigating to a destination. To switch it off or back to Autopilot, you’ll first have to find a spot to pull over and put the car in park.

Full Self Driving subscription price lowered
Tesla’s Full Self-Driving is worth a try, especially now at the lower subscription cost. Give it a month to impress your guests, loved ones, or a date. At the very least, you’ll learn why you didn’t miss out much.

The takeaway

My Full Self-Driving (Supervised) trial ended on April 29, 2024, and as you’re reading this, know that I feel relieved it’s no longer an option on our Tesla, saving myself, the rest of the family, and our proverbial cat from the curiosity.

My take is that the feature—I’d call it “Supervised Self-Driving”—is somewhat like the Windows operating system. It takes a while for users to get used to a major release and deal effectively with the changes in the interface and bugs. Then, Microsoft issues a new version, and the whole cycle starts anew.

There’s a big difference, however. With Windows, the consequences range from annoyance to loss of productivity to the periodical Blue Screen of Death. With Full Self-Driving, the consequences could include death itself. I mean it.

That’s because if the feature worked 99% of the time, that one percent where it doesn’t could be fatal. And that’s why it’s scary: It works most of the time, causing Elon Musk’s zealous fans or anyone with that self-driving wishful thinking to believe it’d work at all times, only to find out when it’s too late.

And no, Full Self-Driving (Supervised) is not at 90% driving automation. I’d say somewhere around 70% at best—that was likely why Tesla has now changed the name to emphasize the fact you should supervise it 100% of the time to cover the legal bases. And, to survive, you must adhere to that because self-driving is a complicated matter.

During our free trial, despite at times feeling impressed, we were never entirely happy with any single FSD-enabled drive. Pick any trip, and there was always something to complain about. And we were present the entire time. And we were glad we did. And we never tried it at night.

That’s to say, FSD is not worth $8000. In fact, it’s something I wouldn’t use on a regular basis if I were paid to. Don’t take my word for it! Spend $99 for a month-long trial to find out for yourself. The feature is fun when you want to see how a car can drive itself. You might even think it’s “incredible”. But the moment you believe you can rely on it, it could be deadly in an instant.

Driving is about being safe at all times, not the combo of being super impressive sometimes and reckless or clueless once in a while. In that sense, I’d equate Full Self-Driving to an excellent driver who’s had a few drinks too many or under the influence of drugs. Would you get in a car with them?

Ford Mustang Mach E 20242024 Lucid Air
Hi Elon, these two could have been Teslas!

As for Tesla, I feel bad for those who got laid off. I think the company made a mistake. Instead of letting go thousands of hard-working folks, it should lay off, or contain, that particular egomaniacal employee, who, in my observation, has been the main reason behind the stunted growth. Yeap, that very one nobody can miss if they follow the news, who just doesn’t seem to know how to shut up!

Indeed. In the past couple of months, I’ve run into half a dozen or so drivers who decided to go with different EV brands, not necessarily because they are cheaper or even better. My buddy—once a diehard Tesla fan who subjected his Model S Performance to a rough desert trip to La Paz and still loved the brand after the car almost got totaled in a serious crash—just settled with a 2024 Lucid Air. My neighbor recently got a Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Among other things, they won’t have the Full Self-Driving (Supervised) vs. Supervised Self-Driving nonsense to worry about (anymore). And that’s a good thing.

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