Regardless of whether you’ve been waiting 4 years, 4 days or 4 minutes, if you’re in the US, own a Tesla and have purchased or subscribed to FSD, then it’s worth staying up tonight (Friday).
Tonight Tesla will release FSD Beta 10.1 to those existing beta testers and while that’s expected to deliver some improvements, those will be overshadowed by the fact ‘The button’ is arriving.
This much anticipated FSD Beta button has been discussed for months, but will finally be delivered tonight and there is a lot to discuss regarding how this will go down.
What does the button do exactly?
By now, most of you will have seen FSD beta videos on YouTube which shows off the current state of play with Tesla’s autonomous efforts. This offers a significant functional step forward from the production build of FSD preview that’s running in most Tesla’s today.
The FSD Beta runs a different code base from the production build and that changes the capabilities of the car. FSD Beta enables the car to:
- Navigate city streets
- Turn corners
- Take roundabouts
- Can be activated almost anywhere, including unmarked roads
- Navigate around parked cars, even crossing lines where necessary
Pushing the FSD Button will get you access to this functionality in your car, but it is important to remember, this software is in development and is tagged as Beta for a reason.
So now to the functionality of the button itself.
We know from tweets this week by Musk, that the FSD Button will not be an FSD Beta download button, but rather a button that requests FSD Beta for your car.
After pressing the FSD Beta button, you will be prompted to accept some terms and conditions that essentially permit Tesla to track your driving behaviour for the following 7 days. Given the software I still in development, they are being cautious and only want this in the hands of good drivers, so the driving data will inform that decision.
Your driving data will be downloaded by Tesla and processed by their Insurance Calculator algorithm that determines your risk rating, or how safe you are as a driver.
The list of data points Tesla will include in this calculation will include things like:
- The number of times ABS is used
- The number of times you get Autopilot strikeouts
- The number of forward-collision warnings
- Unsafe follow distance time
- Intensity of acceleration and braking
That last one will likely be the hardest for most to adhere to, particularly if you own a Performance model and are used to flooring it at the lights. What we don’t know is how granular Tesla will get with this, is accelerating in a straight line with Autopilot engaged ok, while speeding through the turns unassisted classed as dangerous? We’re about to find out.
Update: The button is out.
As expected, Tesla did indeed roll out a new software update that contained ‘The button’. While it was a little later than expected, the button to request Full Self-Driving Beta is now arriving in cars across the United States.
Despite previous tweets, the ‘Request Full Self-Driving Beta’ was actually located in the Autopilot menu, not the Service menu, after you install software update 2022.32.22.
Once users press the button, they are presented with the following on-screen prompt, asking them to agree to allow Tesla to collect their driving data, confirm they understand the FSD Beta still requires the driver to be responsible for the vehicle and understand that Tesla can revoke access at any time. Assuming the driver confirms, their request will be complete.
We now have additional details on what happens next. Tesla has published further details on their Safety Score (of course also in beta), which determines if you pass, with most driver’s expected to have a safety score of 80 or above, which seems to be the pass mark for Beta entry.
While we previously understood that a successful pass of this test, would then allow you to get FSD Beta (guaranteed), it seems that wasn’t exactly the full story. Once you push the button and agree to the Terms, you receive the message ‘You are enrolled into Full Self-Driving Beta queue.” So now we wait for another week to see exactly what the queue looks like and how that’ll work. Rather than this be an open door to tens of thousands of FSD owners and subscribers to get the FSD Beta 7 days from now, it seems Tesla definitely has the ability to release as they wish, be that in batches, or in order of purchase, order of driving safety, a completely random selection, or even an even distribution by postcode.
So when do I get the Beta?
We expect that a week after the date you request the FSD Beta (by pushing the button), that software would then be delivered to your car by way of a normal software update. When this update arrives, you would switch to the new FSD Beta code branch, rather than the production build.
Once you have the software installed (likely still FSD Beta 10.1), you will need to enable it through the UI in the car, and again accept the warning about this being Beta software.
Does this make my car autonomous?
No. The car is not autonomous, FSD Beta is a step towards Full-Self Driving, but be in no doubt, you are still responsible for the car. FSD Beta automates more of the driving functions, just as Navigate on Autopilot did for highway driving, but you MUST remain vigilant, as the software can do random things and when it does, you need to intervene.
What does the button look like?
We know very little about the visual appearance of ‘The Button’, it’s likely this will look like all the rest of the buttons in the UI, but there is also a chance that Tesla makes it a feature, given the hype around it.
I doubt the button will be bathed in the Tesla red, but it seems far more likely the Tesla fun they’re famous for, would likely come in the form of an animation effect after you press the button.
Where do I find the FSD Beta Button ?
This certainly won’t be a button that jumps out at you, you won’t be prompted when you get in the car, you’ll have to know about it, given the feature is in Beta, it’s not right for everyone.
Elon has said the button will be located in the Service menu of the car. Ordinarily, I would have thought the software screen would have been the most logical, but Service it is.
While the release of the button has been discussed in relation to the 10.1 FSD Beta release, clearly those in the beta don’t need the button, they already have the Beta, this means a software update to the production build is likely. As we know from previous releases, not everyone gets these all at once, they typically roll out over a number of days.
There is some speculation the button is already in the current release and will simply appear, but given Tesla hackers like GreenTheOnly often dives into the source code and has not yet reported any presence of the button (or remote code that would unlock it), then I expect a new software release is indeed required.
Should I press the button?
Yes. Given FSD Beta could be disabled at any time, it seems requesting it, is basically risk-free.
There are probably two scenarios where I could see where an FSD owner or subscriber wouldn’t push the button.
If you’re the kind of privacy nut that has a deep-seeded passion against companies tracking you for any reason, then you’re probably not up for this. We’ve seen from FSD Beta release notes that Tesla does leverage the internal cabin camera to monitor for unsafe driver behaviour like using your phone, so this is likely to have you self-select out of pressing the button.
The other type of person is the uber-patient person who’s simply not interested in testing the in-progress Beta builds and is happy to wait till Tesla says it’s ready for prime time. I respect this position, you’re far more patient than I am, but I understand driving this software does come with a responsibility not all want to engage with.
How many will get FSD Beta?
There has been no cap officially stated for the number of people in the US that can request and get the beta, so let’s imagine some possible numbers.
Tesla started shipping HW3 in vehicles from March 2019, which offers the Full Self Driving computer, combined with the cameras and sensors to enable the FSD Beta. We know some owners with early versions like HW2.5 have upgraded to HW3, so let’s imagine all the cars sold in 2019, 2020 and 2021 have the ability to get the FSD Beta.
In 2019, Tesla delivered around 367,500 vehicles, in 2020 they added another 499,550 and so far this year, they’ve delivered 184,800 in Q1 and another 201,250 in Q2 (386,050 running total for 2021).
This means Tesla has delivered an estimated 1,253,100 vehicles that would have the necessary hardware for FSD. Clearly, with the FSD Beta release, we’re currently only talking about a US availability, with the rest of the world to come in the weeks and months ahead.
Let’s say half of those vehicles were sold in the US (not actually sure of this percentage), that would leave us with 626,550 vehicles capable, but then we have to consider FSD take rate, that is how many people purchase at the checkout or added it later and more recently, started subscribing to FSD.
If we estimate the FSD take rate is somewhere around 50%, that places the potential number of people in the US that could push the FSD Beta button to 313,275. Clearly, not all are going to request it as discussed above and that percentage is really difficult to get at, but given many have spent as much as $10,000 to buy FSD I’m expecting demand from Tesla owners to be fairly high, let’s say 75% which gives us 234,956.25.
I expect that most users who request the Beta access will be aware they need to drive carefully for 7 days and will comply to get the software, however, some may still strikeout and I’m guessing around 80% of applicants will be accepted.
There are definitely some big assumptions in these calculations, but if I’m anywhere close to correct with these assumptions, that could mean we see the FSD Beta expand from a group of around 2,000 early access testers, to potentially be in the hands of 187,965.
It seems incredibly unlikely that Tesla grows the FSD Beta program from 2,000 straight to 180,000+. I suspect we may see approvals into the program be staggered, despite Musk’s commentary that suggests this really is about to open up to anyone who has FSD and can drive like a grandma for 7 days.
Here’s a link to my calculations (XLSX), feel free to modify the assumptions and leave a comment below with your predicted numbers.
What if I live outside the US?
We have seen some examples of FSD outside the US in the past couple of weeks, with confirmation it is being actively tested in Canada and we know Musk has commented about releasing it to Norway in the past.
As I sit here in Australia, I can’t wait to test FSD Beta and experience it for myself. Being a US-based car company, I understand Tesla will naturally develop their software there first, but we should not lose sight of the fact people the world over have purchased FSD and are equally awaiting and anticipating it’s release.
Personally, I have many roundabouts and the ability to navigate those alone would enable a home to work commute that’s awfully close to autonomous.
Each country does have an array of unique attributes that need to be accommodated for in their computer vision models, including everything from road markings, to road signs and road laws.
While the FSD Preview builds in Australia really have mirrored what’s available in the US, the Beta is clearly on a different timeline and it would not surprise me to see in the 2022 new year before the Beta arrived here, as disappointing as that would be.
What if something goes wrong?
FSD beta and particularly Tesla’s approach to autonomy (computer vision) is a topic that generates headlines like no other, for both good and bad reasons. So far, with almost a year of 2,000 beta testers (employees and members of the public) have not had any accidents using the Beta software. Let’s really hope that people who get the Beta in this expansion continue that safety record.
We should expect negative press if something does occur, but remember what we’re trying to accomplish here. This is a global effort to make operating a vehicle safer, removing the responsibility from humans to machines. While we’ve tried for decades to minimise road accidents, this is the single biggest opportunity to actually drive that to zero.
Musk has already warned Tesla owners that they will remove people from the Beta if they are found to not be paying attention. Given the importance of this Beta expansion going well, on the autonomous vehicle industry, Tesla does need to be careful, while balancing that against making progress.
With the Beta in the hands of more users, more real-world scenarios and therefore beta data will come into Tesla which can be fed into their data engine to further improve the system in future builds. We’ve seen good progress since the first Beta in October 2020 and it’s going to be very interesting to watch how the progress accelerates with more users.
While you wait, here’s a timelapse of FSD Beta in action to get you excited.. it really is starting to look like the video we saw at Autonomy Day.