July 13, 2021
In the past few years, Elon Musk has repeatedly claimed that Tesla vehicles capable of driving themselves were imminent. In April 2017, he claimed that Tesla drivers could sleep in their vehicle in 2 years. In April 2019, he claimed that Tesla vehicles already had “full self-driving” and even posted a video with the caption: “Full Self-Driving video”. These claims were dangerously false, with the potential of misleading Tesla customers and making them assume that the vehicles had capabilities they did not possess. Musk’s claims have been continually contradicted by Tesla’s own press releases or comments to the press where they have correctly highlighted that Tesla drivers are always responsible for driving the vehicle. Indeed, Tesla’s Autopilot website has the following comments:
Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment. While these features are designed to become more capable over time, the currently enabled features do not make the vehicle autonomous.
A key reason why today’s (“Level 2”) advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) in consumer vehicles are not capable of providing fully autonomous (e.g., “Level 4” or “Level 5”) or “self-driving” functionality is that the ADAS feature set is primarily based on a combination of cameras and radars, which have some inherent limitations. For instance, cameras used for lane-keeping might fail due to direct sun glare or in lowlight conditions (e.g., shadows, night time). Radars have insufficient resolution and high noise. In combination with camera limitations, this is why there have been multiple reports of Tesla vehicles crashing into stationary objects. On the one hand, L2 ADAS systems are excellent and significantly help reduce accidents. At the same time, there are a wide range of real-life driving situations that L2 ADAS systems like Tesla Autopilot (or “FSD”) are unable to safely navigate. To help people understand this better, we posted this tweet thread below.