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Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Dream: An Ambitious Plan Marred by Real-world Incidents


  • Tesla offers FSD feature, still in beta, for a monthly fee.

  • Real-world incidents challenge the reliability of autonomous vehicles.

  • Elon Musk proposes using AI to mimic the best human drivers.

Walter Isaacson’s biography of Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s intention to employ artificial intelligence (AI) to realize its full self-driving (FSD) capabilities. Despite the feature’s continuous beta status, Tesla has not refrained from offering it to its customers for a monthly fee. The company’s approach to achieving autonomous driving has been characterized by lofty promises but has yet to deliver a fully autonomous experience.

Defining Autonomy Levels

SAE International outlines Level 4 autonomy as a vehicle’s ability to drive itself without human input, while Level 5 eliminates the need for traditional driving controls altogether. Although some companies have achieved Level 5 for specific use cases, broader application remains challenging, as highlighted by the closure of Local Motors following an accident during the testing of its autonomous shuttle, Olli.

Complexities of Edge Cases

Traditional programming methods for self-driving cars involve creating extensive libraries of potential traffic scenarios and responses. However, unpredictable “edge cases” continue to pose significant challenges. These real-world complexities have led to increased scrutiny of autonomous vehicles, including Tesla’s, which have been involved in numerous incidents while operating in self-driving modes.

Musk’s Alternative Vision

Rejecting conventional programming techniques, Elon Musk believes in learning from the driving habits of the best human drivers and using AI to mimic their behavior. Tesla’s vehicles have been collecting vast amounts of data that could potentially train its AI systems, allowing for more adaptable and human-like decision-making on the road.

The Feasibility of Tesla’s Ambition

Whether AI can fully replace human drivers remains an open question. Tesla’s self-driving technology is still under development, and other manufacturers, such as Mercedes with its Level 3 autonomy, have started surpassing Tesla’s achievements. Public and expert opinion on the safety of autonomous vehicles is also divided, with some questioning the reliance on AI for driving.

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