Elon Musk says some Tesla drivers were removed from beta tests for its Full Self-Driving software for not paying attention to the road

esla head Elon Musk arrives to have a look at the construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin on September 03, 2020 near Gruenheide, Germany.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his company pulled access for some Full Self-Driving software testers.
  • Tesla “revoked beta where drivers did not pay sufficient attention to the road,” Musk said.
  • On Friday, CNBC reported NTSB chair Robert Sumwalt sought new requirements for public testing.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Friday said the carmaker had expanded the public testing pool for its Full Self-Driving software to about 2,000 vehicle owners but also revoked access for drivers who didn’t pay close attention to the road.

Tesla “revoked beta where drivers did not pay sufficient attention to the road,” Musk said on Twitter late Friday. “No accidents to date.”

Musk didn’t offer further details about how many drivers have lost access, or how Tesla made decisions about pulling access. Insider has reached out to the company for comment.

Musk’s statement followed a Friday report saying the National Transportation Safety Board chairman called for increased scrutiny of self-driving software.

On Friday, CNBC reported that NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt had in February sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking for updated requirements for carmakers testing software like Tesla’s on public roads.

Sumwalt’s letter mentioned Tesla by name 16 times, as CNBC reported. He wrote that Tesla was testing its software on public roads “with limited oversight or reporting requirements.”

He added: “Although Tesla includes a disclaimer that ‘currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous,’ NHTSA’s hands-off approach to oversight of [automated vehicle] testing poses a potential risk to motorists and other road users.”

A week ago, Musk said Tesla would double the size of its public beta testing program for version 8.2 of its software. “Still be careful, but it’s getting mature,” he said.

He added that he expected the beta testing program to expand tenfold for software version 8.3, which would be released in “probably two or three weeks.” On Friday, he said the next “significant release will be in April.”

A cache of emails between Tesla and California regulators were made public by a transparency advocacy group, PlainSite, on Friday.

In the emails, a Tesla lawyer said the company had “made it abundantly clear” to beta testers that the system “does not make the vehicle autonomous and that the driver is responsible for being fully attentive at all times.”

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Elon Musk says Tesla will double its Full Self-Driving software’s beta program. It comes amid news that Ford’s Mustang Mach-E is eating into Tesla’s US sales.

Tesla
A Tesla supercharger station at Burbank town center.

  • CEO Elon Musk said Tesla would double a beta testing program for its Full Self-Driving software.
  • “Still be careful, but it’s getting mature,” Musk said.
  • The news comes amid reports that a Ford rival is eating into Tesla’s lead in the EV market.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Friday said the carmaker would double a beta testing program for its self-driving software. The news comes amid reports that Ford’s electric Mustang Mach-E seems to be eating into Tesla’s lead in the electric vehicle market. 

On Twitter, Musk said:“If you want the Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta downloaded to your car, let us know.”

The beta drivers will be testing version 8.2 of the company’s Full Self-Driving software, said Musk. Last week, the CEO said version 8.1 “normally drives me around with no interventions.” The next version will be “a big step change beyond that.”

“Still be careful, but it’s getting mature,” he added on Friday. 

Musk also said he expected the beta program to be “probably” 10 times larger by the time the company tests its version 8.3 software. Version 8.3 has “literally ~1000 improvements” from the previous version, he tweeted, adding it “will take time to QA internally before release probably in two or three weeks.”

Tesla has an ever-growing number of electric vehicle rivals, and while Ford sold only 3,739 of the new SUVs in February, Tesla’s share of the US electric-car market fell to 69% in the same month. This was down from 81% in the prior year, a Morgan Stanley report found. What’s more, the Mustang accounted for nearly all of Tesla’s market-share losses, the bank said. 

Tesla’s beta testers will be trying out the company’s Full Self-Driving software. One beta user posted a video of his Tesla driving 358 miles, from Los Angeles to Silicon Valley, without the driver intervening. 

The company had plans to launch the autopilot software as a subscription service this year. Musk said this month that it would “for sure” launch before July. 

Waymo CEO, John Krafcik, in January said Tesla’s software can’t compete with Waymo’s autonomous software. Tesla’s building cars with assisted driving, while Waymo’s building cars that don’t need drivers at all, he said. 

“So no Tesla is not a competitor at all. They’re a car company making a driver assist system. We’re a company making a fully autonomous driver,” Krafcik said.

Musk shot back on Twitter, saying Tesla had “better AI hardware and software than Waymo.” 

 

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Apple is reportedly talking to lidar suppliers for its self-driving vehicle project

Tim Cook, Apple Headquarters
Apple CEO Tim Cook at Apple’s headquarters.

Apple has reportedly begun talking to suppliers of lidar self-driving car sensors, as part of its effort to build an electric vehicle, according to Bloomberg

Common on many self-driving vehicles and prototypes, lidar sensors are used to determine the vehicle’s distance from objects, people, and other vehicles. The technology also is used for other tech, including a few iPhone models. 

Apple was talking with several lidar suppliers working on next-gen hardware, according to Bloomberg. The report also said Apple has developed in-house much of the software needed for self-driving vehicles. But a vehicle launch may be at least five years away, Bloomberg reported, citing internal Apple sources. 

In recent weeks and months, reports have also claimed Apple was in talks with several car manufacturers about building Apple-branded vehicles.

In January, a South Korean newspaper reported advanced talks with Hyundai, with plans to build a “beta” version of an Apple vehicle within about a year. But Hyundai and its sister brand Kia later denied those talks. 

Nissan similarly last week told Insider it hadn’t entered discussions with Apple, despite reports saying it had.

“However, Nissan is always open to exploring collaborations and partnerships to accelerate industry transformation,” the spokesperson said. 

 

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In California, little robot cars will deliver pizza, groceries, and medicine as a paid service in 2021 for the first time

nuro r2

Your groceries, pizza, and medicine can now be delivered via robotic vehicles if you live in California, as Nuro received the state’s first commercial permit for autonomous delivery. 

San Francisco and Silicon Valley’s streets have been bustling with self-driving vehicles from an array of companies for years. But those vehicles have only been issued permits for testing on public roads. Now, the robotics-startup Nuro has an official stamp of approval to start its paid service, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Issuing the first deployment permit is a significant milestone in the evolution of autonomous vehicles in California. We will continue to keep the safety of the motoring public in mind as this technology develops,” said Steve Gordon, DMV director, in a statement

In 2017, California had granted Nuro approval to test its vehicles with safety drivers inside. In April 2020, it said the company could begin testing without drivers. 

Nuro driving in traffic
Nuro in traffic.

Now, the Mountain View-based company, which raised $500 million earlier this year, can deploy its vehicles for paid deliveries. 

It’ll begin service with modified Prius vehicles set in fully autonomous mode, then roll out its fleet of R2 vehicles, which don’t have driver’s seats, said David Estrada, chief legal and policy officer, in a blog post. Nuro, in early 2020 got US government permission to ditch the mirrors on its R2 fleet because, well, they don’t have seats or a steering wheel. 

“R2 was purposefully engineered for safety, with a design that prioritizes what’s outside – the people with whom we share the roads – over what’s inside,” Estrada said. It has a top speed of 35 mph and a small four-foot frame. It operates with thermal imaging, radar, and 360-degree cameras, to drive on the public road.

The deliveries will start in two communities near Nuro’s headquarters.

The company said driverless deliveries would have a “big impact” on Californians, both during and after the pandemic. They’ll help people who can’t drive and help streamline the lives of big, busy families, Nuro said. 

“We’re excited to see these benefits grow into the everyday lives of the people in our communities, in the places we also call home,” Estrada said. 

The company has ambitions beyond local grocery delivery. Nuro last week announced it was acquiring Ike, an autonomous trucking startup, for an undisclosed sum. 

Among several patents filed by Nuro is one detailing how advertisements might work on the side of a self-driving vehicle.

The patent describes how a self-driving vehicle’s sensor would pick up information about its surroundings and then serve an ad on the side of the vehicle based on that input. If it’s raining, say, the vehicle might display an ad for umbrellas. 

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