Tesla FSD Beta to drop the ‘Beta’ tag with Version 12

    In software development, the ‘Beta’ label indicates software is still in development, but stable enough for people outside the company, (usually enthusiast consumers) to use. These users are typically willing to deal with some bugs in software releases while the development is completed.

    Google famously overused the beta tag on Gmail for 5 years, from April 1, 2004 to July 7, 2009. In the later years, the Beta label was almost a joke, as the product was well-established, feature-rich and reliable. This raises the question, when is the right time to remove a beta tag from a software build?

    Tesla’s FSD Beta software has been in development since October 2020, build 2020.24.12.2.
    As of June 27, 2023, there have been 117 builds of FSD Beta released since the first version in October 2020.

    The latest build of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Beta software is v11.4.4 (build number 2023.7.20). While there’s been a number of improvements over the past 3 years, today is the first time we’ve heard Elon Musk talk about dropping the Beta label from the software.

    Musk says ‘Version 12 won’t be beta’, in reply to Whole Mars Catalog who asked about a timeframe for FSD Beta 12, hoping like many of us that we see it this year.

    So why is V12 so important?

    Version 12 of FSD is expected to be an end-to-end AI system that will control all aspects of driving, from steering to braking. Tesla has been on a journey to replace human-written heuristics-based code, with AI-powered Neural Nets.

    This is expected to be a significant functional improvement in the software.

    On May 8th, Musk tweeted that V11.4 should have really been V12 as there were so many improvements.. but ultimately they decided to preserve the major build number leap for when FSD is end-to-end AI..

    This means their computer vision system captures images from the 8 cameras around the car and converts that into a 3D vector space, the car then plots a path through the environment and controls the steering, brakes & acceleration outputs. This is true end-to-end.

    What happens when the Beta tag goes away?

    So if the Beta tag is removed, the question is.. what are the flow impacts of that. Firstly there are no guarantees, things can and do change, but here are some educated guesses.

    Removing the Beta tag from the FSD software upgrade suggests that Tesla is ready to deploy it to the main software branch, which would mean all users who buy or subscribe to FSD would get V12, gone would be the process of opting into the Beta builds anymore.

    This would allow Tesla to recognise the full deferred revenue from FSD, so there’s likely a financial reward to achieving this milestone (and with the increase in compute planned, they’ll need it).

    Moving FSD to the main branch would see a dramatic increase in the number of users with the software, Tesla this week again (CVPR23 suggested the number is 400,000 which hasn’t moved for a while, so I suspect is actually a little higher. It’s estimated that around 1.3 Million Tesla Vehicles in the US have HW3, so with the right pricing, I’d expect the number to grow well past 500,000 users.

    Tesla is also more likely to offer free trials of FSD Beta to show off their latest and greatest software, a try-before-you-buy (or subscribe) which I expect will be a popular and successful model to get more FSD users.

    The international expansion plans for countries like Australia should start to become a real possibility if FSD becomes stable enough for all Tesla owners in the US and Canada to use, I’d expect Tesla then turn at least some of their focus for the Beta program to accommodate for the differences between markets.

    So when would Tesla FSD V12 actually ship?

    In two weeks.

    The actual timeline is really hard to estimate, it could be later this year but may also tip into 2024. One of the last major architectural changes was the ‘single stack’ where both City Streets and Highway driving codebases were merged. This took a lot longer than anticipated, many months, but to Tesla’s credit, when it did arrive, we didn’t really see a regression in capability.

    So what’s next?

    Even once V12 arrives, that’s absolutely not mission accomplished and time for Robotaxis. Tesla will continue to release new versions of the software that continues to improve the safety and reliability of the FSD package.

    Tesla would need to be confident in their software’s capability to entertain a level 4 approval, then seek approval to offer robotaxi trials, all while setting up Tesla insurance to take liability should any accidents occur.

    I still believe we are likely a couple of years away from that point, but happy to be proven wrong.

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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