Tesla’s ‘complete self-driving’ struggles to win over its fans

“I want you to understand that I have complete and complete control. I am behind the wheel. I have access to the brake, throttle, and steering wheel. Anytime he does something I don’t feel safe, I’ll take control of the car.”

But the reassurances did not ease his wife’s fears. She says technology is often alarming and alarming.

“If I’m reading, that’s when I say, ‘Oh, good grief,'” Sadie Krueger told CNN Business. “It’s going to be jerky or skewed all of a sudden. You’re like, ‘Whoa, are you drunk?’

Krueger says she loves her Tesla Model 3, but feels that “full self-driving” gets closer to the big trucks than most drivers, and sometimes it veers off the wrong lane. The technology works like “grandfather” in some cases, irritating nearby drivers, she says, but other times it can be aggressive.

Tesla enthusiasts with the incomplete beta of “full self-driving,” currently a driver assistance system similar to enhanced cruise control, are finding that family and friends like Krueger don’t always share their enthusiasm. The technology promises to one day lead passengers to their destinations without human intervention. Many tell CNN Business that they use the software less when driving with other people, including their romantic partners.

Riders sometimes object to what they describe as a jerky driving style of “full self-driving” and tell Tesla enthusiasts not to use “full self-driving” while in the car. Some Tesla owners are proactively deciding not to turn on “full self-driving” until passengers have a smoother ride.

Krueger said she was joking with her husband, because he started testing the program near their California home. His YouTube channel has over 42,000 subscribers who watch his videos on Tesla. But she also draws a line, and tells him not to use it when he’s riding with him in cities or in places he knows he’s likely to be jerky.

But a lot of passengers, especially younger ones like Kruger’s teenage son, are tech addicts, passionate about emerging technology, and savor the trial, flaws, and everything.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said every year from 2015 to 2022 that self-driving Teslas were probably a year or two away. He has said that life will be changed with safer roads and more affordable transportation. Musk described Teslas as a “valuable property” that should be worth $200,000and claims it could one day generate up to $30,000 in gross profit as an automated bridge in the automaker’s proposed network of future passenger cars.

In Musk’s move, the robotaxis will act like Uber or Lyft cars that can be summoned via a Tesla smartphone app. There will be no human driver behind the wheel. There may not even be a steering wheel or pedals in the car. Some Tesla enthusiasts have purchased their cars with plans to use them as an automatic hub in the future.

But before Tesla’s technology can change the world, it will first have to work, and then it will have to win fans’ loved ones. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment on the reactions of family and friends to beta testers.

Tesla takes the wheel

Tesla first released an early version of “fully self-driving” for a small group in October 2021. “Full autonomous driving” isn’t actually “self-driving” in the eyes of regulators and autonomous vehicle experts. It is very similar to enhanced cruise control that steers, accelerates and navigates at intersections, but requires a vigilant human driver behind the wheel who can control at any moment due to system flaws.
Drivers reported being surprised and worried about the system, which sometimes lights up, and in other cases makes seemingly dangerous decisions.

Tesla owner Justin DeMarie says he’s trying to use “full self-driving” as much as possible. He considers it an important historical work. Tesla cars that are “fully self-driving” send driving data to the automaker, who uses it to improve the software.

Dimari imagines a day when people may not fly anymore because self-driving programs have become so good.

“It will change everything,” Dimari said. “If you don’t have to pay attention, you don’t have to do anything, you can spend that time with the family or do other things that are more productive or add more value.”

But Demari must factor in the difference between the promised future and the present reality when his family gets in the car. He only uses “full self-driving” about half the time he spends with his wife Heather.

“If it’s moody, you don’t have to ask anymore,” Dimari said. “I just turn it off.”

Walt Currie, 70, hopes he never has to turn off his “full self-driving” program while driving alone or with his wife, Nancy. He bought a Tesla with the hope of ensuring their mobility and independence as they got older.

He says she is annoyed by the loud beeping to alert drivers when they need to immediately take control of the vehicle because she can’t handle the situation.

“It’s really obnoxious,” Corey said, explaining that the noise bothers him as well. “Let me know if you’re about to go off a cliff or bump into someone, but don’t do it because the software gets confused.”

worth the trouble?

Jeff Gowen, a pilot who describes himself as a “technologist,” bought a Tesla in part because he felt that autopilot, a driver-assistance technology that’s more rudimentary than “full self-driving,” would make him feel less tired after long flights. Tesla owners generally say that using the autopilot’s auto-steering function on divided highways makes them less drained after hours on the road.

But Goin does not use “full self-driving”. He tried the software and felt he should pay more attention when using it.

Goin’s partner, Tim, uses “full self-driving” regularly. “Wait,” Gwen says, joking with his friends riding with them when Tim turns on “full self-driving.”

When the couple ride alone, Tim uses a bit of “full self-driving.” Goin said he sometimes works in the car, so he doesn’t like being distracted by scrambling. However, Goin says he sometimes admires “complete self-driving”.

Describing a recent accident in which he said a “fully self-driving” Tesla sensed a stop sign down the road and chose to stop sooner than recommended, stopping briefly on rail tracks, Gwen said.

Goin, who said he is a “huge” fan of CEO Elon Musk, is skeptical at the time when self-driving vehicles will become a reality.

“There is time on the ordinary scale, and minutes on the ordinary scale, and then there are the minutes of mush,” Gwen said.

Although Musk has never wavered in his promise that self-driving Tesla cars are on the doorstep, the challenge of building a self-driving vehicle has proven more difficult than those who developed it had anticipated.

Also, building a robotaxe that drives safely is not enough. Robotaxis will have to run smoothly enough to make passengers like Goin comfortable. It is unlikely that many of them will accept as many flaws as early adopters of technology.

John Gibbs, a professor in Georgia who says he’s been testing beta software for a long time, “is used to seeing things crash and act weird and you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, I wonder what caused that,'” he said. Their personality styles are much less. They just want something that works.”

One of them is Lynne, Gibbs’ wife, he said, who doesn’t like it when fully self-driving is rotating. He uses “full autonomous driving” with it on direct roads, but turns it off at intersections where the car must turn.

“For her convenience and sanity,” he said, “I just knew it was not worth it for you to go to her, ‘Why are you doing this?'” ”