Back in January, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he remained confident that his company would be able to deliver a self-driving vehicle exceeding the capabilities of an average human pilot by the end of 2021. But this has become a tired excuse used almost reflexively by automakers for years, making the inevitable shifting of the goalpost so predictable that nobody even bothers to get upset anymore. Being lied to is just part of everyday living and the automotive sector is just one droplet in the overflowing bathtub of mendacity.
Unfortunately, organizations continue making the mistake of expecting to be given the benefit of the doubt as they continue repeating the same fables. We know they’re working on solid-state batteries and autonomous cars, but they’re hitched to these unrealistic expectations and completely fabricated timelines that draw our focus while they engage in slimier practices on the sly. While holding them accountable is often easier said than done, catching them in a lie is usually fairly simple. For example, the California Department of Motor Vehicles accidentally called out Tesla on the full self-driving (FSD) beta it’s been testing with employees.
Introduced in the fall and touted by Elon Musk back in the summer of 2020 as a major breakthrough, FSD has been evolving for years. The latest version (Beta 8.2) just represents the most recent incarnation, which the California DMV learned has been massively overhyped. According to Reuters, the department stated that its March 9th conference call with Tesla indicated it was still at SAE Level 2 that constitutes partial automation but requires constant driver engagement — which isn’t all that novel and miles away from Level 5 (actual FSD).
“Elon’s tweet does not match engineering reality per CJ. Tesla is at Level 2 currently,” the DMV wrote in a memo about the meeting, which included real talk from Autopilot engineer CJ Moore.
The memo was released by legal transparency group PlainSite, which obtained it under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
“Tesla indicated that Elon is extrapolating on the rates of improvement when speaking about L5 capabilities. Tesla couldn’t say if the rate of improvement would make it to L5 by end of calendar year,” the memo said, referring to level 5 full autonomous technology.
The manufacturer has been subjected to enhanced criticism whenever one of its vehicles are crashed. Regulators and the public desperately want to know if the car was in Autopilot as if that makes some kind of difference when it’s still operating at Level 2. The real scrutiny should be in response to how often Tesla makes false promises or misleads its own investors/customers before the same standards are applied to other automakers engaging in practically identical behaviors. Let’s face it, it wasn’t all that long ago when just about every manufacturer on the planet stated that self-driving cars would be made commercially available before 2020.
Where are they?
It’s getting to the point where we should really start blaming ourselves for being such complacent losers for standing for repeat nonsense. The proof that we’ve been collectively had is there and there are plenty of videos online capturing just how ineffective some of the most advanced “self-driving” systems actually are. For example, YouTuber AI Addict tested Tesla’s FSD Beta 8.2 in Oakland, California, and the video (below) is a 13-minute sizzle real of close calls and the car making bewildering decisions.
Officially, Tesla has been careful to state that drivers are expected to keep their hands on the steering wheel and should be prepared to assume control of their Tesla at any time. Frankly, we wish the company (all automakers, really) would be a little more vocal about those limitations and put an end to these not-so-subtle hints (falsehoods) about the technical prowess of their products.
[Image: Tesla Inc.]