My Tesla Autopilot & FSD Beta Background
3 years and 8 months ago, I purchased my Tesla Model 3 Long Range and paid $6,000 extra for Full Self Driving. If you want to add FSD to your current car or a new purchase, it will now cost you $15,000 for the same software suite. You can also rent the software for $199/month. With a referral*, your new Tesla will come with three months of FSD.
At first, FSD only gave me automatic driving on limited-access (no-cross streets) highways. My car would navigate from one Interstate highway to another following the navigation route that I entered and pass control back to me at the off-ramp. It’s also supposed to pass slower moving cars. Although, that feature doesn’t always work correctly. I have driven my Model 3 now for over 100,000 miles. During this period, Tesla has let me download over 15 software updates. Sometimes the updates were so significant it was almost like getting a new car. The biggie about a year ago was getting FSD Beta, which added navigation on non-limited-access roads and city streets. It also added Autosteer on unmarked roads (no yellow center lines).
Since I first got FSD Beta, it has gone through 11 updates. The latest gave me FSD Beta V11.4.4.
FSD Beta Summary
Elon Musk has bragged that Tesla FSD would soon be good enough that Tesla owners could rent out their cars as autonomous taxis. Tesla was briefly one of the most valuable companies in the world partly because of speculation on the future value of Tesla FSD software. Tesla has the advantage of collecting real-life data from 400,000+ of us paying “software testers,” and it is using that data to train future versions of the software on one of the biggest supercomputers in the world. Such a deal for Tesla! Usually, a company would have to pay their employees to test their software, not get their customers to pay them for the privilege. While those of us who have been using FSD Beta for the last year or more have seen significant improvements, many of us (perhaps most of us) don’t believe that FSD is any closer to total autonomy than it was a year ago. It still fails in high-traffic situations, fails to get in the correct lane sometimes at intersections, and is subject to phantom braking and swerving. Musk has recently said that FSD V12 will no longer be in beta. However, he didn’t give a promised release date. Those of us who have paid for it would love to be surprised.
What’s Good about FSD Beta V11.4.4?
My wife and I are spending the summer in Northern Wisconsin, so most of my testing of V11.4.4 is on low-traffic streets and highways. It is great fun to enter an address into the navigation and have my car drive there totally automatically if there is no traffic or light traffic. The Autosteer is fabulous — it keeps my car in the center of the traffic lane better than I can myself. It slows down automatically for sharp turns and even navigates the “15 mph” turns and rotaries where regular Autosteer would fail. V11.4.4 Autosteer also works perfectly on unmarked roads! (No yellow center lines or white side lines needed.) This is an improvement over previous versions of FSD Beta, where the car would wander sometimes on the unmarked roads. V11.4.4 also handles oncoming traffic on a narrow unmarked road or street perfectly. It splits the difference between the oncoming traffic and the edge of the road so well that I don’t feel the necessity to intervene.
V11.4.4 finally responds properly to construction barrels. Previous software versions would not do this. The car will move properly to the left in response to the construction barrels when the right-hand lane is closed. In previous versions, I would always chicken out before my car would respond to the construction barrels. V11.4.4 also does a great job of avoiding parked cars, bicycle riders, pedestrians, and anything else extending out into your traffic lane.
Note: Tesla is not kidding about the current “Beta” designation. When using FSD Beta V11.4.4, one has to be ready to intervene instantaneously, usually in situations where busier traffic makes it imperative.
Stop Sign Behavior
V11.4.4 almost always stops correctly right at a stop sign. However, it will occasionally stop me 20 feet or so in front of the stop sign. If the visibility of the cross street is good and there is no cross-traffic, it will turn or go forward and accelerate briskly after ~3 seconds. If it stops ~20 ft in front of the stop sign or the cross street visibility is poor, it will creep forward and accelerate briskly after 5 seconds or a little longer. Usually, with no cross traffic and no one behind me, I let the car proceed automatically. However, if there is a car behind me, this behavior is still a little too timid, so when there is no cross traffic or I see that I have enough time to make the merge, I will press on the accelerator. The car will still make the automatic turn perfectly.
If there is quite a bit of cross traffic, it is really hard to let V11.4.4 do the merge all by itself. Sometimes I disengage the software and do the merge manually. Other times, I will add some acceleration to make sure I merge correctly ahead of a fast moving car coming from some distance.
Passing Slower Vehicles on 4-Lane Highways
V11.4.4 is supposed to match speeds coming up behind a slower moving vehicle if needed, signal, move into the passing lane, pass the vehicle, and return to the right-hand lane. I’ve seen it remain stuck behind the slower moving vehicle in some cases. In others, it will pass the vehicle but not return to the right-hand lane even when specified in the controls.
Phantom Braking & Swerving
Phantom braking has been an issue with FSD Beta for a long time. I still observe occasional phantom braking, and I have seen frequent phantom swerving again recently after not experiencing it for a while. V11.4.4 will cause my car to swerve left aggressively into the oncoming lane or right nearly off the pavement and back. This would be a perfect response to a rock, piece of tire, deer, turtle, or something else in my lane. However, there was nothing in my lane — thus the phantom swerving designation. This occurs at speeds of 30 mph or so on Wisconsin two-lane backroads that I have traveled many times without seeing this behavior. I have been very comfortable letting FSD Beta autosteer me on these backroads. The phantom swerving has happened frequently enough lately to drive my passengers crazy and make me consider going back to driving manually.
Improper Lane Selection & Failure to Follow the Navigation Route
I don’t see this much in rural Northern Wisconsin because we seldom have multiple lanes here. However, on those few trips to a bigger city, Rhinelander, I’ve seen V11.4.4 pick a lane inconsistent with the navigation and even deviate from the navigation route.
Musk Just Forecasted Level 4 or 5 Autonomy by the End of the Year: Are You Kidding Me?
Elon Musk keeps forecasting huge improvements in FSD. His most recent forecast is for Level 4 or 5 autonomy by the end of 2023. Are you kidding me? The answer to the question in the title of this article: Those of us driving with FSD Beta every day for almost a year (or more) have seen multiple versions of the software with significant improvements. However, wrong lane selection, deviation from the navigation route, phantom braking and swerving, and timid behavior at busy intersections are all showstoppers and seem to have not improved with multiple updates. Maybe a breakthrough is coming, but there is no sign of it yet on my end.
FSD Beta V11.4.4 sees stop signs on streets that are merging at a small angle. It will make your car slow down unnecessarily.
When turning right from Highway 32 onto Highway 45 in Three Lakes, V11.4.4 turns me into the acceleration lane on the right instead of the main traffic lane, even with no traffic. My car will stay in the passing lane until the last second when it disappears and it will merge into the main traffic lane. Also, between Three Lakes and Eagle River there is a spot where the road widens to let cars pass stopped left-turning traffic. V11.4.4 puts my car in the right-hand lane even with no left-turning vehicle. A normal driver would not do this.
V11.4.4 will often activate the turn signal at sharp turns on unmarked roads even when no turn onto another road is required. If I do that kind of thing myself, my wife laughs at me.
V11.4.4 will sometimes stop dead before turning from a major road onto a minor road even with no oncoming traffic. This could cause a rear-end collision from a closely following car. I am prepared for this possibility and add some accelerator pressure if needed. V11.4.4 will still do all the correct steering for the turn. This behavior is not new.
V11.4.4 now makes really nice smooth turns for lane changes. It also usually makes very smooth right-angle turns. However, sometime turning onto a minor road, the steering wheel will jerk wildly once. Previously we have seen this behavior at slow speeds in parking lots where you would get multiple jerks of the steering wheel.
Especially those of you using V11.4.4 in metropolitan areas, please give us your observations in the comment section as well.
*Tesla has reactivated its referral program. If you find any of my articles helpful to you, please feel free to use my referral link: https://ts.la/arthur73734. If you are buying a new Tesla and use my link (be sure to use it when you make your order), you’ll receive $1,000 off your purchase price and 3 months of Full Self-Driving (Beta). It will drive you automatically to any address you enter into the navigation — just be prepared to intervene immediately if it screws up.
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