Tesla is planning to remove a driver monitoring feature from Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta, and it got the attention of regulators.
FSD Beta enables Tesla vehicles to drive autonomously to a destination entered in the car’s navigation system, but the driver needs to remain vigilant and ready to take control at all times.
Since the responsibility rests with the driver and not Tesla’s system, it is still considered a level-two driver-assist system, despite its name. It has been sort of a “two steps forward, one step back” type of program, as some updates have seen regressions in terms of driving capabilities.
Tesla has frequently been releasing new software updates to the FSD Beta program to improve performance with the goal of becoming safer than human drivers and adding more owners to it.
But it has yet to deliver on its promise to make a true self-driving system that can be approved by regulators.
For now, drivers are in charge, and Tesla monitors them to make sure they are paying attention and ready to take control.
There are two main ways Tesla monitors drivers: a front-facing camera tracking their attention and pressure detection on the steering wheel to try to keep their hands on it.
The latter has often been referred to as “steering wheel nag” since Tesla would send alerts to drivers to put their hands on the steering – nagging them to do so.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the company would remove the steering wheel nag for the FSD Beta owners with over 10,000 miles in the program in a tweet last week.
He said that the update would come this month, but he didn’t elaborate on the implementation.
The tweet caught the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which confirmed that it contacted Tesla about the new initiative.
Top comment by Marion & Michael
Presumably it would be pretty easy to test whether having either or both of the monitoring systems improves safety. Personally it would not surprise me if the data said that only the camera monitoring actually adds safety 'value'.
NHTSA has already been investigating Tesla’s FSD Beta and, specifically, its capacity to monitor driver attention.
I don’t know if that’s a good idea, but I do know that the steering wheel nag is the worst part of Tesla’s driver monitoring system.
It doesn’t actually monitor whether or not the driver has their hands on the steering wheel. It can detect pressure being applied on the steering wheel, which can make the alerts sound annoying since you can get them while your hands are on the steering wheel.
So it’s not the worst thing that it is going away for some Beta testers, but at the same time, I think there are bigger things to worry about with the FSD Beta program.
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