For years now, Elon Musk has been promising that Tesla is just around the corner from delivering fully autonomous vehicles to the wider public. Musk has been pushing this goalpost by 6 more months for half a decade now.
As a result, and perhaps fairly, Musk has lost a lot of credibility when it comes to his predictions regarding how soon Tesla will reach level 5 autonomy. In the years Tesla has been chasing level 5 autonomy, the EV maker has gone through 3 major architectural rewrites of the full self-driving software.
Musk has explained the need for these major architectural rewrites saying that – at the beginning of a new architecture, you start to make rapid improvements, and based on those improvements, you predict when the system will reach full self-driving capabilities.
However, after some time you notice the improvements start to taper off and you realize no matter the amount of effort you put in, the system, how it is set up, will never deliver driving capabilities comparable to or better than a human.
These major architectural rewrites have no doubt been painful backtracking decisions on Tesla’s part as they necessitate the Tesla team to start from scratch.
The first of these restructuring of the autopilot software was Tesla’s move from Mobileye’s driver assist system to the company’s in-house built FSD software and hardware program. Tesla took this first major leap back in 2016. Then in 2020, Tesla yet again rewrote the autopilot software releasing what we now know as FSD beta.
FSD Beta differed from previous full self-driving approaches as this was the first autopilot software that largely relied on AI, rather than manually written codes, to make driving decisions.
The FSD Beta software as explained by Tesla engineers is a complicated marvel of software engineering and requires piecing together several neural nets which are tasked with and trained to identify different aspects of the driving dynamic.
These included neural nets trained to identify road markings, traffic lights, pedestrians, speed limits, and so on. These neural nets come together in what Tesla called the multi-headed “HydraNet” to make the final driving decision.
This is the current version of FSD Beta and has brought Tesla ever so close to shipping an AI that’s able to drive as well as a human being. You can see all over the internet the current version of FSD Beta, FSD Beta v11.4.6, maneuver highly complex driving situations without any human intervention.
Although the current FSD Beta software seems impressive, Tesla has sadly once again seems to have decided the FSD Beta software, as it’s written, will not deliver an AI that is able to drive better than a human being.
Although this might seem disappointing, Elon Musk has recently announced that Tesla has already found a fundamentally better approach to tackling the FSD problem. Tesla’s new approach yet again simplifies the FSD software and unlike FSD Beta ditches the HydraNet and uses a single AI model that handles all aspects of driving.
Musk has explained this new approach saying – raw video data comes in one end and driving decisions out the other. This eliminates the need for manually written codes or stitching together several AI models to handle parts of driving decisions individually.
Musk has said this major leap in AI will be released as Tesla “FSD v12” and, in addition to being the first version of FSD to lose the “beta” moniker, will also be the version of FSD that will finally deliver level 4 or 5 full self-driving.
This is certainly exciting and today, Elon Musk has announced that Tesla has reached a major milestone in this front. In response to Tesla investor and FSD Beta tester Whole Mars Catalog who wrote on X (Twitter) saying “Wow. FSD Beta is getting freakishly good. And I’m still on 11.4.4, not 11.4.6 yet.”
Musk responded saying, “I tested the version 12 alpha build today. It is mind-blowing.” Musk discussing artificial general intelligence recently has said that “what we have discovered at Tesla is that the answer was much simpler than we had previously assumed” and it’s nice to see that this single neural net approach to solving full self-driving is progressing nicely.
I tested the version 12 alpha build today. It is mind-blowing.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 27, 2023
Musk has promised to reach level 4 or 5 autonomy later this year, meaning Tesla plans to ship FSD v12 before 2024. And as usual, Musk’s predictions might not come in time however, we will be sure to keep you posted as Tesla progresses towards FSD v12 and level 5 autonomy.
Until then, make sure to visit our site torquenews.com/Tesla regularly for the latest updates.
So what do you think? Excited to learn that Tesla already has an alpha version of FSD v12? Do you think this simple version of FSD will be able to reach level 5 autonomy later this year? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Image: Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.
For more information check out: How the Model Y is Engineered By Tesla - First Principles
Tinsae Aregay has been following Tesla and The evolution of the EV space on a daily basis for several years. He covers everything about Tesla from the cars to Elon Musk, the energy business, and autonomy. Follow Tinsae on Twitter at @TinsaeAregay for daily Tesla news.