Some Tesla owners lose faith in Elon Musk’s promises of “fully autonomous driving”


By Matt McFarland, CNN Business

Frustrated Tesla owners continue to wait for “fully autonomous driving,” an expensive and delayed software feature that isn’t even guaranteed to improve the resale value of their cars. Some of the early proponents of the “fully autonomous driving” option are even begins to lose faith in the promise of one day enjoying a truly autonomous Tesla.

Multi-year delays, buggy beta software, and the risk of no return on their investment in the options package disappointed some Tesla owners. Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s predictions and Tesla’s actual reality have diverged so much that some owners tell CNN Business that they have lost faith in his predictions. Some otherwise satisfied Tesla owners describe feeling fooled into purchasing a “fully autonomous drive” ahead of its polite release, as Musk warned the price would go up.

CNN Business interviewed eight Tesla owners to discuss “fully autonomous driving.” The option has been available since 2016, when Tesla claimed that all of its new vehicles had the hardware for “fully autonomous driving.” Paying extra for “fully autonomous driving” software seemed like a worthwhile investment, as Musk claimed it would be finalized in 2018. Autonomous Tesla.

Owners with “fully autonomous driving” today don’t get the grand autonomous vision that Musk has long promoted, but rather a feature set that drivers with only autopilot do not have. They include automated lane changes on freeways and “Navigate on Autopilot,” which guides a Tesla from the slip road to the freeway exit. There is also a parking assist function as well as a “smart summon”, in which the car can slowly cross a parking lot to pick up passengers, and a function to identify stop signs and traffic lights.

For years, Musk has made grandiose claims about how quickly Tesla’s cars will drive. Musk and Tesla repeatedly missed those deadlines, but he continued to make optimistic predictions.

“It’s financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla,” Musk said in April 2019. “If you buy a car that doesn’t have the necessary hardware for fully autonomous driving, it’s like buying a horse.”

Recently, Musk himself questioned the value of a “fully autonomous driving” subscription, which Tesla also began offering this summer.

“We need to make autonomous driving fully functional for it to be a compelling value proposition,” Musk said on Tesla’s latest earnings conference call. “Right now, does it make sense for someone to take out an FSD subscription? I think it is debatable.

Last month Musk said that at the end of September, Tesla owners could access the latest “fully autonomous driving” software, which 2,000 Tesla owners have tested since. March of this year. But Tesla owners say they’ve heard similar stories before.

In March, Musk said that in about 10 days, Tesla owners would have the option to download the latest beta of the “fully autonomous driving” software. Two weeks later Musk said the option will hopefully arrive in April. Then in April he said the software would hopefully be available in May. In May, Musk said Tesla was “maybe in a month or two … but these things are hard to predict.” Then in August, Musk said the best guess for the public to have access to the latest software would be around four weeks away.

Alex Costos of Plainville, Connecticut, who bought a Tesla Model 3 in 2018, heard Musk’s predictions. He described himself to CNN Business as a “Tesla fanboy,” and said he carried his wares everywhere.

Costos said they bought “fully autonomous driving” software in 2019, believing it would get good value for money even if it wasn’t yet usable. But two years later, that money seems lost, he told CNN Business. Costos is not among the group of Tesla owners testing the beta of “fully autonomous driving”.

Costos said he was set to trade in his Model 3 for a new car and had yet to fully enjoy “fully autonomous driving”.

“It stops at every traffic light, whether it’s green or red. It doesn’t work as expected, ”Costos said of Tesla’s“ fully autonomous driving ”features, which typically require drivers to press the accelerator to cross an intersection.

Other Tesla owners have described weaknesses in the company’s autonomous driving technology, such as mistaking the moon for a traffic light, or thinking of an advertisement of a person in the back of a bus is a pedestrian.

A Tesla owner filed a lawsuit last month in district court in Albuquerque, New Mexico, claiming Tesla fraudulently covered up technical failures and made false and misleading claims about “fully autonomous driving.”

Costos is particularly concerned about the trade-in value of his Model 3. He doesn’t expect dealerships to pay him a premium because his car has “fully autonomous driving.” There is no guarantee that the software will be transferred to a future buyer of the car, making dealers less likely to pay him extra for it, he said. Vroom, a used car website, told CNN Business that there is no guarantee that “fully autonomous driving” will be transferred to a new owner, so it does not add any value to the cars. models with this feature.

Ford, VW, Nissan, Toyota, Subaru, Honda and GM’s driver assistance programs that compete with Tesla will be transferred to new vehicle owners, company spokespersons told CNN Business.

“The longer you’ve been an owner, the more you realize they’re a lot like any other auto company. They have all the problems that other automakers have, and others that these companies don’t, ”said Costos.

Tesla does not generally engage with professional news media and did not respond to a request for comment.

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Brian Self, owner of Tesla in Bristol, Tennessee, told CNN Business that he liked his Model S, but was not happy with the way Tesla handled the next full-scale version of “driving. fully autonomous “.

“He’s been posting random tweets for three years that say, ‘Oh yeah, full autonomous driving is getting ready to come out,’ Self said. ‘You can’t believe them anymore.’

Self said he didn’t think it was fair that a select group of Tesla owners who paid for access to “fully autonomous” driving were given early access to the software. He said he believes Tesla owners who have purchased a “fully autonomous drive” should all have the option of receiving the latest version of the software.

Self said it appeared Tesla was using the limited version of “fully autonomous driving” as a form of advertising. Many Tesla owners selected to use the beta software have a strong social media presence.

Tesla first released the beta of the latest “fully autonomous driving” in October 2020 to a select group. Videos from beta testers show that the technology has limits and requires vigilant human oversight. But beta testers also described that the system is generally improving.

Even so, it got to the point that Musk’s delayed deadlines became a joke in the Tesla community.

“Elon might say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll sort this out, it’s coming out next week,’” Self said. “And everybody says -” Elon time two weeks, real time two months. “

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