Tesla reluctantly gave full self-driving beta demo to DMV and critics

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Tesla reluctantly gave a full self-driving beta demonstration to California’s DMV and some FSD critics that the automaker didn’t want to feature.

Lately, Tesla has come under pressure from California’s DMV over its autopilot and self-driving claims, which the agency says may be misleading.

Earlier this summer, Tesla and the DMV went back and forth on rolling out and marketing the Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta around the Full Self-Driving Beta Package. It came after the agency came under political pressure to force Tesla to release more data on its FSD program.

Over the years, Tesla has come under fire for the way it advertises its Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS). One of the main concerns has been the actual names of the systems: Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability. Some people think the names suggest the systems are self-contained, even though they’re just driver assistance systems.

Tesla also used this description to avoid having to report data such as opt-out like other California self-driving programs under DMV jurisdiction.

Now we learn that this back-and-forth between the California DMV and Tesla led to the automaker giving the DMV a Full Self-Driving Beta demo last week. Bloomberg reports:

The demonstration of the system marketed by Tesla as Full Self-Driving took place last week at the Sacramento headquarters of the Department of Motor Vehicles, according to emails Bloomberg viewed via a public records request. Also at the Oct. 26 event were the chief of the Highway Patrol, an assistant secretary for the state transportation agency, and three outside advisers for the DMV.

Prior to the event, Tesla attempted to have the DMV exclude some agency advisers who were scheduled to attend the protest.

Jennifer Cohen, head of policy and business development for Tesla in California, wrote in an email to Miguel Acosta, DMV’s head of autonomous vehicles:

I wonder if it’s appropriate to include your consultants who have made negative public statements about Tesla. We have yet to receive any assurances that their bias does not influence Tesla’s treatment by DMV.

Acosta replied

We appreciate Tesla’s continued support in providing information on the latest releases and expansion of the Full Self-Driving Beta program and features. Our consultants assist us in our ongoing review of the technology available on California public roads.

Tesla apparently had particular issues with Steven Shladover, a transportation research engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, who previously called Tesla’s use of the term self-driving “very damaging,” and with Bryant Walker. Smith, a researcher affiliated with Stanford Law School. Center for Internet and Society, which advocated, like many others, for autonomous testing and reporting rules to apply to Tesla’s beta FSD.

Electrek’s Grasp

Glad to see Tesla engaging with regulators on FSD. We need it if the program is to evolve into a true self-driving system as Tesla has been promising since 2016.

However, I find it disappointing that Tesla didn’t want a few critics present. It shows weakness and a lack of confidence, in my opinion.

Elon Musk keeps saying that “you just have to try FSD Beta for yourself” to see how good it is – although many weren’t impressed with the performance compared to Tesla promises. Why not give these reviews a try?

I think this is another example of breaking the feedback loop from Musk, and now Tesla. The automaker is afraid of some criticism when the demonstration should be enough on its own.

And let’s be honest: there’s room for criticism when it comes to Tesla’s approach to self-driving. We must bear in mind that the main objective of most people involved is to keep the roads safe. When the goal is safety, there should be room for people to critique to see if your approach is on the right track.

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