During this week's Tesla Q1 2023 Earnings conference call, CEO Elon Musk said yet again that Tesla may achieve Full Self-Driving or "full autonomy" this year. He did say that he was hesitant to say it, and he did suggest that the technology is trending toward full self-driving, but it's honestly hard to know what he's thinking at this point.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has already come up with many incredible solutions in his life, and while many were far behind his optimistic timelines and/or tweaked a bit, they did actually come to fruition. However, he's been stringing along Tesla's Full Self-Driving capability for years, and even the CEO himself has admitted it's proving much more difficult than he'd ever imagined.
Musk is full of crazy ideas that, with enough time and effort, could come true. He pushes very optimistic timelines to keep the ball rolling forward and to keep his employees and fans confident that he will reach his goal. With that said, he has proven on many occasions that he was right. However, as far as textbook definition "full autonomy" is concerned, it has gotten to the point that it's beyond just a few setbacks or a bit too optimistic.
It arguably appears that full autonomy is not even Tesla or Musk's goal here. An aptly named "Full Self-Driving capability safety package" perhaps, but not Level 5 autonomy, by any means.
It has literally been years since Musk promised the famed Tesla autonomous coast-to-coast drive. During that time, it appears FSD beta has improved significantly thanks to many miles of driving and many incremental updates.
Recently, Tesla finally released FSD beta version 11, which welcomes the single stack software, bringing together Enhanced Autopilot for highway driving and Full Self-Driving features for city streets. While this setup gives Tesla's vehicles the potential to travel from point A to point B with little to no driver intervention, there are so many edge cases. Moreover, it seems that no matter how many updates Tesla pushes out, the edge cases never go away.
At any rate, Musk used the following words as he talked about the improvements to FSD beta and the potential for full autonomy this year.
"For those that are using the FSD beta, I think you can see the improvements are really quite dramatic. There’ll be a little bit of two steps forward, one step back between releases for those trying the beta. But the trend is very clearly towards full self-driving, towards full autonomy. And I hesitate to say this, but I think we’ll do it this year."
As you can see, even the CEO himself comes off as skeptical. He notes the positive trends, but also makes it clear that each release also brings with it some regression. When asking ourselves if Tesla will truly achieve Full Self-Driving in 2023, or ever really, we need to understand Musk's definition of "Full Self-Driving." The fact that he also said "full autonomy" makes it all the more interesting.
Perhaps one could argue that by the end of 2023, Tesla has the potential to cross the country in a car with FSD and no driver interventions. Will it be perfect? Safe? Repeatable? Not likely.
On the flip side, it would be very hard for one to argue – based on what we know about the progress of FSD today – that Tesla will be able to achieve "full autonomy," or Level 5 automated driving. If Level 5 is achieved, Tesla can get rid of the steering wheel, the pedals, and the driver, which is not something Musk has made any mention of in recent discussions.
What do you think? Scroll down to the comment section and leave us your thoughts. This is certainly a topic that deserves much conversation.