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As Tesla releases its new auto pilot beta test, many are concerned about the safety of the program. Here are all the details on Tesla's latest software.

Is Tesla’s new auto pilot feature safe? Does this mean the car is fully automated?

Tesla has now released a beta test for their auto pilot feature, the “full self-driving” tool. However, despite the auto pilot program moving forward, many are concerned about the actual dangers this beta test will bring to crowded streets. The National Transportation Safety Board has warned that Tesla has yet to address the “basic safety issues” of the auto pilot feature. 

Over the weekend, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed on Twitter that drivers can now use a “request” button on their Tesla’s screen to apply for the beta test for the full self-driving tool. 

Although the company details that this tool will allow Teslas to drive through populated cities on auto pilot, the feature will still require drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and remain alert.

Who can participate in the “Full Self-Driving” program?

Despite the head of the National Transportation Safety Board displaying pressing concerns about its safety last week, Tesla has now enabled access to the beta of its “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) program to more Tesla drivers, via a “request” button on Teslas’ dashboard screens. 

However, Tesla will determine a driver’s “safety score” before allowing them access to the new software. The score is calculated using data collected by sensors on the driver’s Tesla, and examines instances of forward collision warnings per 1,000 miles, hard braking, aggressive turning, unsafe following, and forced Autopilot disengagement.

Tesla defines forced autopilot disengagement as when the “system disengages for the remainder of a trip after you, the driver, have received three audio and visual warnings. These warnings occur when your Tesla vehicle has determined that you have removed your hands from the steering wheel and have become inattentive.”

Although it hasn’t been revealed what Tesla would consider an acceptable safety score to use the FSD, it does explain that most drivers will have a score of at least 80 out of 100. While a driver’s safety score is required, it’s also been required that Tesla drivers must remain in control of the vehicle at all times.

Not every Tesla driver will have access to the FSD beta as only a select few paying customers will be invited to participate. The company began a monthly subscription package for FSD in July with a price of $199 per month. Before that point, the FSD package was sold for a one-time payment of $10,000.

National Transportation Safety Board wary of the auto pilot feature

Only last week, Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said that Tesla should address “basic safety issues” before opening the FSD beta. Homendy also called Tesla’s use of the term full self-driving “misleading and irresponsible.” 

Additionally, Homendy declared that Tesla “has clearly misled numerous people to misuse and abuse technology.” Although the NTSB can administer investigations and offer recommendations, the board has no enforcement authority.

Other critics of the new FSD beta program

Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts have also expressed their concerns about the beta test and its misleading name.

Meanwhile, Tesla is under an ongoing investigation by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Critics have also argued that auto pilot software shouldn’t experiment on city streets, which could potentially harm pedestrians such as cyclists, children, and other civilians.

On Monday, Vice reported that Tesla requires every FSD beta tester to sign non-disclosure agreements. Additionally, the company encourages drivers to share videos that won’t harm the public image of the test software.

“Do remember that there are a lot of people that want Tesla to fail; Don’t let them mischaracterize your feedback and media posts,” Tesla reportedly says in the mandatory NDA.  “Share on social media responsibly and selectively…consider sharing fewer videos, and only the ones that you think are interesting or worthy of being shared.”

What do you think about Tesla’s new auto pilot beta program? Should it be allowed on populated streets? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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