Tesla Inc.’s advanced driver assistant software will not receive regulatory approval in 2022, with CEO Elon Musk saying in remarks that the company has not yet been able to satisfy executives that its cars can be driven without someone behind the wheel.
The Silicon Valley automaker sells a $15,000 software add-on called “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) that enables its vehicles to change lanes and park autonomously. This complements its standard “Autopilot” feature which enables cars to steer, accelerate and brake within their lane without driver intervention.
However, the cars still need to be driven with human oversight. A fully autonomous vehicle would require regulatory approval.
Musk told a post-earnings call on Wednesday that all FSD users in North America will get an upgraded version at the end of the year, adding that its cars aren’t designed for anyone behind the wheel, rarely touching drivers. Will control.
“The car will be able to take you from your house to your work, your friend’s house, the grocery store without touching the wheel,” he said.
“It is a different matter whether it will get regulatory approval. At that time it will not have regulatory approval,” he said.
Musk also said that Tesla expects to provide an update to the FSD in 2023 to show regulators that the car is safer than the average human.
“Musk is leaving open the possibility that Tesla will have a more difficult path to approval for the FSD given the NHTSA and other investigations,” said Craig Irwin, an analyst at Roth Capital.
Auto safety regulators have long been at loggerheads with Tesla over its partially automated driving system. Since 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened 38 special investigations into accidents involving Tesla vehicles that resulted in 19 deaths, looking at whether software was a factor.
“Translation: Tensions between NHTSA and Tesla will escalate toward the end of the year and Tesla will move forward,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at venture capital firm Loop Ventures, which owns Tesla shares.
Tesla’s naming of its software has also caused consternation, as the automaker has been accused of false advertising by the California state transportation regulator because the features do not provide full autonomous vehicle control.
Tesla’s website says that both technologies “require active driver supervision,” with a “fully attentive” driver whose hands are at the wheel, “and do not make the vehicle autonomous”.
However, some analysts say that given the complexity of autonomous driving, Tesla’s primary problem is not the regulators but the software itself.
“The hurdle is the technology. It’s not about the approval of that technology,” said Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina.
Tesla has repeatedly missed self-imposed goals to achieve full self-driving capability for its vehicles – a function Musk has said will eventually become “the most important source of profitability for Tesla.”