Elon Musk is pushing Tesla’s prototype “Full Self-Driving” feature harder than ever before. The billionaire CEO recently instructed staff to demonstrate the capability to any customers picking up their new Teslas. And he said in a post on X that all current Tesla owners with cars capable of running the software will receive a 30-day free trial they can activate with the tap of a button.

So now is the perfect time to reiterate something crucial to all the new FSD testers out there: Teslas cannot drive themselves. They are not autonomous. You must stay vigilant when using FSD because it appears prone to doing wacky, illegal and potentially dangerous things. 

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Elon Musk's dreams for a self-driving Tesla

For years, Elon Musk has proclaimed that self-driving Teslas are just over the horizon. Tesla is trying to sell more customers on its $12,000 Full Self-Driving feature. But just remember that it doesn't make cars autonomous, despite the branding. 

Tesla points this out in a pop-up window drivers need to click through before activating the software for the first time, cautioning testers that FSD “may do the wrong thing at the worst time.” And the EV maker appears to have further underscored the task at hand by renaming the feature Full Self-Driving (Supervised). Before, it carried a more ambiguous (Beta) label. 

This is all worth spelling out since, you know, Tesla named the feature Full Self-Driving. Intuitively, that can only mean one thing.

Tesla nerds may know full well what they’re getting into by signing up. But the number of people I’ve heard casually mention those “self-driving Teslas” indicates that the nuanced message of what FSD actually does isn’t getting across to the general public.

What Is Full Self-Driving (Supervised)?

FSD is a level 2 driver-assistance system, according to industry standards. That means that the car is supporting some tasks, but the person in the driver's seat is ultimately the one driving. They must supervise at all times, just like they would keep an eye on their car’s cruise control or lane-keeping feature. Level 5, for reference, is complete autonomy in all situations with no driver attention required. So Tesla has a long way to go. 

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Unlike cruise control, however, FSD aims to navigate complex environments like city streets. Switch it on, and it will use a Tesla’s array of cameras to monitor for street signs, curbs, pedestrians, other cars, traffic lights, cyclists and so on. It will use AI to determine how to brake, accelerate and steer on its way to a destination the driver selects. Unprotected left turns across multiple lanes of traffic and New York City neighborhoods teeming with tourists are both situations that FSD will attempt to handle on its own, despite the feature being far from flawless. 

There’s a whole genre of videos online dedicated to putting FSD through its paces. Impressively, Teslas running the software are often shown completing entire drives on local streets with little to no driver input. Some Tesla owners say the latest version of FSD (V12) functions better and more naturally than previous releases. 

FSD Still Makes Mistakes

But in a car, one slip up can be catastrophic. Tesla has made a lot of progress, sure, but FSD has also botched basic driving maneuvers for years. Judging by early impressions posted online, this latest release hasn’t ironed out all of the kinks. 

In one recent video, a Tesla running the latest FSD software slowed down in the middle of a street inexplicably and then ran a red light at full speed.


Another clip showed FSD attempting to pilot a Tesla down a road that any human would recognize was closed for construction. The driver had to slam the brakes to avoid hitting a cone. 


One X user posted a clip of their car blowing halfway through a stop sign before coming to a stop. 


Multiple Tesla drivers running the new trial software have complained that FSD now cuts too close to curbs, sometimes leading to scuffed rims and gouged tires. Many say it drives too hesitantly through intersections and four-way stops, confusing other drivers. Some report that it routinely picks the wrong lane, choosing to go straight from a turn-only lane, for example. Sometimes, it sets a speed that’s way lower than the posted speed limit or brakes harshly for no reason, testers have said.

Misfires like these are exactly why you need to be ready to take control at all times when using FSD.

Why Go Hard On FSD Now?

Tesla handily dominates the U.S. EV market, but it’s struggled as of late. The company slashed prices across its lineup last year to drum up sales. In January, it warned investors to expect “notably lower” sales growth in 2024, as compared with previous years. Its first-quarter deliveries, announced on Tuesday, dropped year-over-year for the first time since 2020. 

So Tesla seems like it is looking to pad its bottom line by selling more drivers on FSD. Drivers can buy the feature for a one-time fee of $12,000 or a $199/month subscription. And many customers have already shelled out over the years, hoping that Elon Musk will make good on his promise to make Teslas drive themselves someday soon.

If you do choose to partake, remember to drive responsibly. 

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