Tesla CEO Elon Musk has revealed wider ‘Full Self-Driving’ Beta software could be released within roughly two weeks. Targeted testing of the package began in October, with early users able to make autonomous turns on city streets, all linked through the car’s navigation and autopilot features.
However, this announcement was made as the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened up a new probe into roughly 115,000 Tesla vehicles. The investigation will focus on a safety issue with the front suspension of the Model S (2015-2017) and the Model X (2016-2017).
Taking to Twitter at the end of last week (27 November), Musk confirmed the expansion of new self-driving features for Tesla vehicles within a fortnight. ‘Probably going to a wider beta in two weeks,’ he told a user enquiring as to whether the latest software would be available in Minnesota.
In October, the so-called ‘Full Self-Driving’ Beta software was initially offered to a select number of ‘expert, careful’ drivers. Delivering an almost feature-complete self-driving package, users are required to constantly monitor the system as is made apparent in the release notes.
‘Full Self-Driving is in early limited-access Beta and must be used with additional caution. It may do the wrong thing at the worst time, so you must always keep your hands on the wheel and pay extra attention to the road. Do not become complacent.’
Tesla outlined that when enabled, the new software would allow the user’s vehicle to ‘make lane changes off highway, select forks to follow your navigation route, navigate around other vehicles and objects, and make left and right turns.’
Musk had previously said the latest upgrade wold be widely released by the end of 2020. The system looks to become more robust and capable as it gathers additional data to feed its neural networks, improving with each new user. With the majority of this testing appearing to focus on the US market, and given the current legislative quagmire surrounding autonomous capabilities in Europe, uncertainty remains around when Tesla owners elsewhere in the world might experience this new system.
This announcement also fell under the shadow of a new probe opened up by the NHTSA, affecting an estimated 114,761 vehicles. The agency began the preliminary investigation after receiving 43 complaints alleging failure of the left or right front-suspension links. In a NHTSA document, the issue was linked to malfunction of the knuckle ball-joint ring in the Model S (2015-2017) and Model X (2016-2017), which could result in contact between the tyre and wheel liner.
Of the 43 complaints received by the agency, 32 involved failures occurring during low-speed parking manoeuvres (below 16kph), and 11 while driving (above 16kph), including four at highway speeds. ‘The complaints appear to indicate an increasing trend, with 34 complaints received in the last two years and three of the incidents at highway speeds reported within the last three months,’ the document detailed.
Tesla was approached for a statement, but did not respond to the request prior to the publication of this article. As this investigation continues in the US, Tesla owners in Europe will again have to wait and see how they are impacted.