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Tesla Opens Floodgates for Owners to Test Out Automated Driving

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(Bloomberg) — Tesla is making its controversial driver-assistance system available for trial to customers who previously thought it wasn’t safe enough to drive.

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CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the system Tesla is calling Full Self-Driving Beta is now available to anyone in North America who purchased the option and requested it from their car’s screen. So far, some paying customers have been blocked from accessing a feature known as FSD. That’s because the metrics Tesla uses to set insurance rates didn’t score high enough.

The FSD has been criticized for not responding to Musk’s remarks. It was his October 2016 when he first announced his sales plans. A few months later, at his technology conference, he said he believed self-driving cars were “basically a solved problem.” In 2019, he said that within about his year, Tesla’s technology would advance to the point where a human would no longer need to be behind the wheel.

These predictions didn’t work. FSD requires a fully observant driver at the wheel, ready to take over at any moment. This disconnect has exposed Tesla to increased legal and regulatory risks.

  • The U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Tesla’s self-driving allegations, people familiar with the matter said last month.

  • A California customer is seeking class action status in a lawsuit filed in September alleging Tesla deceived and sold driver assistance systems.

  • In August, the California Department of Motor Vehicles accused the company of misleading consumers about its FSD and Autopilot systems.

It is unclear whether making FSD available to more customers has anything to do with Tesla generating or recognizing more revenue. It has said it will only recognize a portion and apply the rest to the deferred revenue balance.

“FSD purchases are not fully recognized by Tesla’s P&L as consumers bought promises rather than fully functioning products,” UBS analyst Patrick Hummel said in a Nov. 14 memo. said in

At the end of September, Tesla’s deferred revenue balance was $2.8 billion. The company said at the time that he expected to recognize $1.09 billion in deferred revenue over the next 12 months, but for years Tesla has overestimated that number.

Musk has taken a relatively light-weight approach to regulating self-driving technology in the United States. Just before Tesla’s first fatal accident involving Autopilot in 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the country’s existing laws pose few barriers to driver assistance systems.

When asked in March when Europeans would be able to test the FSD, Musk told fans of Tesla’s opening of a factory near Berlin that the company had delayed it because regulators in the region were intolerant. He said that he was

“In the United States, things are legal by default,” Musk said. “In Europe, it’s illegal by default, so you have to get approval beforehand, but in the US you can do it more or less on your own terms.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, which has no authority to force automakers to follow its recommendations, is critical of Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD deployments.

“There’s essentially a western on our roads right now,” NTSB Chairman Jennifer Homendy told Bloomberg earlier this year. “It’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

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