Tesla Pushes Ahead with Self-Driving Tech, Despite Safety Concerns

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Tesla owners already have access to some of the best self-driving tech currently available. In a recent announcement, Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, said that advantage is about to get better.
Drivers with good driving records will soon get access to an expanded version of the automaker’s “Full Self-Driving” system. The AI-powered software brings the capabilities of the original program into an urban setting.
Tesla’s enthusiasm for the advanced system isn’t shared by regulators, who say the name for this system is misleading. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is already investigating safety problems with Tesla’s semi-autonomous software.
The front of a red Tesla on display
Tesla has always been on the cutting-edge of self-driving technology.

How does Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” system work?

Autopilot, Tesla’s first advanced driver-assistance program, now comes standard in all Teslas. The New York Times says it uses cameras and the car’s computer to read road paint and detect surrounding cars, allowing it to steer, accelerate, and brake within its lane. 
For $10,000 or a $199 per month subscription fee, Tesla owners can upgrade to the company’s “Full Self-Driving” system (F.S.D.), which originally could make automatic lane changes and navigate itself through highway interchanges.
Vox says the latest “beta” software update for F.S.D. adds city streets to the list of environments that the car can navigate on its own. 
But the update isn’t available to everyone. Drivers will need to pass a week-long driver behavior test using the tracking tool Tesla uses to calculate insurance rates before they can upgrade. And they will need to keep their hands on the wheel after turning on the program.

Why are regulators concerned about Tesla’s autonomous driving tech?

Autopilot and F.S.D. are impressive, but they’re making government officials and regulators nervous, and not without reason.
The NHTSA is investigating a number of incidents involving Teslas. The Guardian says the regulator is looking into 30 crashes suspected to involve the programs. 12 car crashes involving Teslas and emergency vehicles are also being investigated by the NHTSA, according to Car and Driver.
Elected officials and Tesla owners are also upset with how the company has labeled and marketed the programs. They say using the terms “autopilot” and “full self-driving” misleads consumers into thinking the systems make the cars fully autonomous. 

Should I buy a Tesla?

Despite all the controversy, Tesla remains the EV-industry leader, selling almost 421,000 cars in the first half of 2021, according to Statista. The automaker’s charging station network and its vehicles’ battery ranges are unmatched by any other manufacturer.
Other luxury brands like Mercedes and Porsche are working to catch up, but for now, you probably can’t find a better electric car than a Tesla. That said, you can definitely find an EV that’s cheaper to insure.
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