This time relating to Full Self Driving.
When it comes to bold claims about future products, no one tops Tesla's CEO. Elon Musk is the master of promising that groundbreaking technology is "coming soon," but Tesla has missed its fair share of these deadlines. A few examples include autonomous cars coming in two years (promised in 2016), one million robotaxis on the road (promised by 2020), and countless delayed vehicle launches like the Roadster, Semi, and Cybertruck.
Rather than set more realistic deadlines for these projects, Musk often doubles down on his claims. That's exactly what the world's wealthiest man did this week when asked a question about Level 4 self-driving during a podcast interview. "It's looking quite likely it will be next year," Musk replied.
Seeing as Tesla hasn't even perfected Level 3 self-driving yet, we find this claim dubious at best.
Musk's claims seem to be based around a hunch rather than concrete data. In the interview, he notes how the interventions per million miles has been "dropping rapidly," and following this trend, the probability of an accident in a Tesla Model S equipped with Full Self Driving software will be less than that of "the average human."
We take several issues with Musk's claims, starting with the question of what defines an "average human" driver. There have already been several crashes and near-crashes using FSD, so perhaps it's not good enough to be better than the "average" driver.
Our second issue deals with defining the five levels of autonomous driving. Tesla is currently only on Level 2, where the vehicle handles the steering and acceleration/deceleration, but still requires intervention from a driver. Level 3 does not exist outside of one Honda model in Japan, adding the ability to make informed decisions like passing a slower vehicle. No vehicle sold in the US currently has Level 3, so we doubt Tesla will breeze past this phase with zero hiccups.
A Level 4 car mostly drives itself, requiring very little intervention from a driver. Though Tesla FSD seems like Level 4 on the surface, it requires far too many corrections from drivers to ever be considered that advanced. Plus, if Tesla officially designated FSD as Level 4, it would be put under even more scrutiny from regulators. Despite originally promising Level 5 self driving in 2021, which involves a car with no steering wheel or human controls, Tesla has admitted it is still far from reaching this goal. Based on independent tests of Tesla's FSD software, we doubt there's any way Musk keeps this promise about L4 in 2022.