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Tesla debuts ‘Full Self-Driving’ beta, but it comes with a warning

Tesla has debuted its much-anticipated “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) feature in beta mode, allowing select Tesla owners to experience the next phase of the Autopilot software. However, the company has warned drivers that the feature requires additional caution and they should not remove their hands from the wheel or fail to pay attention while using it.

The new update is referred to as “Autosteer for city streets,” and expands previous automatic driver assistance but does not yet qualify as fully autonomous self-driving. The software essentially incorporates the previous “Navigate on Autopilot” functions for highway driving onto city streets, as reported by The Drive. It now allows Teslas to perform complex automatic maneuvers, such as following a pre-defined route between two points including making turns, stopping at traffic lights, and moving around obstacles such as other vehicles.

FSD beta program here we go. Hell yeah

— Tesla Owners of Silicon Valley (@teslaownersSV) October 22, 2020

The image of the software interface shared by the Tesla Owners Silicon Valley Twitter account gives more details of the system and a warning. “Full Self-Driving is in early limited access Beta and must be used with additional caution,” the screenshot reads. “It may do the wrong thing at the worst time, so you must always keep your hands on the wheel and pay extra attention to the road. Do not become complacent.”

The safety of autopilot systems have been a focus of interest, with groups such as the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) expressing concern about how attentive drivers are when using such systems.

In a statement given to The Verge, the NHTSA warned: “As we have stated consistently, no vehicle available for purchase today is capable of driving itself. The most advanced vehicle technologies available for purchase today provide driver assistance and require a fully attentive human driver at all times performing the driving task and monitoring the surrounding environment. Abusing these technologies is, at a minimum, distracted driving. Every State in the Nation holds the driver responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle.”

There have been previous incidents of Tesla drivers misusing the Autopilot feature, which has lead to crashes when drivers were concentrating on their phones rather than on the road. There have also been fatal crashes that occurred involving a Tesla which had Autopilot was activated.

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