Why do I need full self-driving?

Currently, Tesla is selling a Full Self Dring (FSD) package for $12 000. Previously it was $15 000 but it was just insane. And recently Tesla sent an email to customers in the US to let them know that they can test it for a whole month for free. Obviously, they want to sell more of it, but I cannot quite understand who is supposed to be the intended audience for such a product.

Any Tesla can keep the lane and have adaptive cruise control and it works very well. Well, almost well until there is phantom braking but it does not happen often. These 2 things may not look like much but on long trips, it is what helps quite a lot and considerably reduces driver’s load.

When I was using regular cruise control it didn’t reduce my load as a driver in any meaningful way, but when I got adaptive cruise control in my Honda CR-V I immediately felt it. At the end of the trip, I felt way less tired. Unfortunately, lane keep assist is not very reliable in Honda. On the other side, Tesla keeps lane quite well and I had only one instance where it was strange but I’m still pretty sure it was safe.

To summarize adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist allow the driver to be a little bit more relaxed and not pay attention to the road every millisecond. I would say it is also a bit safer (unless it is abused) because it will prevent the car from accidentally moving to adjust lanes and prevent rear-ending the car in front of you.

And now let's see what FSD is offering. Well, it allows autopilot to drive on regular streets in a city. But you still must pay attention. And in fact, you need to pay much more attention because it is still your responsibility.

Just as an example, imagine you are driving at busy a T-intersection. At that intersection, you need to turn left. Normally you would stop (or very close to stop) and check cars on your right and left. If there is a big enough gap you will proceed and make a turn. It is very simple and very basic.

Now imagine the same when a computer driving your car. You are close to the intersection and the computer already checked traffic on the right and the left. As a result, the computer will just slow down a little bit and start making turns. But you didn’t check the traffic yet.

Now you have 2 choices: press the brake and check traffic. But this will disengage the autopilot. Or trust autopilot and allow it to drive you with the chance that it will kill you or your car can kill someone. I would say both choices are bad in this case.

But even if autopilot stops and gives you a chance to check the traffic it will effectively make you a driver. Autopilot will just rotate the steering wheel, accelerate, and brake for you. You still need to be engaged in every single decision in the same way as you usually do, plus you have to be ready to take control because autopilot theoretically can do something stupid.

And this raises an important question: why do you need autopilot in this case? It is not a big deal to rotate the steering wheel and press the accelerator and brake. Sure it adds a little bit of convenience but it also adds a lot of stress.

On the highway, everybody is at least protected by car. Almost every car is full of airbags and there is steel around everybody except for motorcycles but they choose their fate by themselves. So if your car does something stupid chance of serious injury is not very high for other people. Also if your car decides to go to the side of the road it will hurt only you.

But on the other hand, there are a lot of pedestrians in cities. And not very well-behaved pedestrians. And If your car makes a mistake in a city there is a very high chance that it will be fatal. And imagine your car decides to drive to a bus stop full of people. Are you willing to take that risk? And if you are, I’m sure it will put you under a lot of stress, assuming that you are a responsible person. And you need to pay $12 000 for this privilege.

All of this returns us to the original question: who is the target audience for this product? I’m sure that there will be many geeks with money who would like to play with this toy but for most people spending such a big amount of money is justified when there is big convenience or it is an investment that eventually will bring money back with hefty interest.

As we see above, autopilot will not add much convenience but adds a lot of stress. And don’t even start telling me fairy tales about robotaxi. This will not happen any time soon. I already wrote about it.

Lastly, I would like to mention that at the current stage, autopilot makes a lot of mistakes. It changes lanes when there is a solid white lane, sometimes it doesn’t recognize traffic signs and road work is a nightmare for it. So it is far from perfect.

Of course picture will change completely if Tesla will be responsible for any action of your car when autopilot controls it. But it also will not happen any time soon because it will be really bad PR if a Tesla car kills someone and also from a legal point of view, you are in the driving seat of your car so you are responsible for everything that your car did. So law needs to change even if Tesla wants to take responsibility.

So I didn’t see any mass adoption of autopilot any time soon. There is simply no value for regular people. I would pay maybe $1000 for it mostly because of the auto-park feature and maybe using autopilot on country roads where regular autopilot rejects to drive fast enough. I will pay $12 000 only when I can sit in the back of my car and play on my phone. But then I will probably not buy a car at all because it will be simpler and cheaper to order robotaxi.

So if FSD is not that good, why there is so much hype around it? Well, Musk in his typical style aims to the stars to get to the moon. The promise of self-driving created a lot of hype around Tesla and it helped sales and brand recognition. Plus the more people testing it the faster full self-driving will happen. I’m willing to help but not for $12 000. So there are many reasons for Tesla to promote it but there is no single reason for regular people to buy it.


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