Tesla Admits Full Self-Driving is Just Level-2 Autonomy

Published on March 10, 2021 in Technology/Autonomous Vehicles by Guillaume Rivard

Tesla has often been criticized for misleading customers with its so-called Autopilot system, but now with the “Full-Self Driving Capability” option, things are even worse.

In a letter sent to California's Department Of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and later published on Twitter, the company admits that "Full Self Driving (FSD) Capability is an additional suite of features that builds from Autopilot and is also representative of SAE L2."

To be clear, Tesla’s Full-Self Driving Capability is a $10,600 package available on all of its models. It includes Autopilot Navigation, Auto Lane Change, Autopark, Summon, Full Self-Driving Computer, and Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control. Autosteer on City Streets will be added to the mix later this year.

However, the technology that Tesla and CEO Elon Musk love to brag about does not make its vehicles autonomous under the definition of U.S. authorities.

Photo: Tesla

As acknowledged in the letter, it fits more with what SAE International's On-Road Automated Vehicle Standards Committee considers Level 2 autonomy, which is a vehicle either handling acceleration and deceleration, steering, or both, with the expectation of the driver handling every other aspect of driving and being ready to take over full control.

This is far removed from Level 5 autonomy—the maximum that can be achieved—where occupants never have to worry about driving or being required to take control at any point. It’s those vehicles that wouldn’t need a steering wheel or pedals.

On Tesla’s website, there’s a sort of disclaimer that reads: “The currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous. The activation and use of these features are dependent on achieving reliability far in excess of human drivers as demonstrated by billions of miles of experience, as well as regulatory approval, which may take longer in some jurisdictions. As these self-driving features evolve, your car will be continuously upgraded through over-the-air software updates.”

Photo: Tesla

What does it all mean? Simply put, Tesla vehicles equipped with Full-Self Driving Capability may eventually be upgraded in such a way that makes Level 5 autonomy possible, but they are nowhere near that level yet.

Incidentally, a few days ago Honda announced that its Japanese-spec Legend (a version of our Acura RLX) is getting the new Honda Sensing Elite system, becoming the first vehicle in the world to reach Level 3 autonomy where hands-free driving is further expanded.

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