How Far Away are we from Full Autonomy in a Tesla?

Today, over a cup of hot Texas Pecan coffee, I began thinking about how great my Tesla is running on FSD beta, and I was wondering just how far away we all are from a Tesla Robotaxi. 

My Tesla seems almost fully autonomous, so I wanted to find out about other peoples’ experiences.  I did a little searching and came to find out there are many people all over the USA driving in many conditions with zero disengagements when they use FSD beta.  I found out Tesla’s first concern is safety and that no other vehicle companies are doing it like Tesla.  Let’s look further into these details, and come up with a smart estimate of how far away we are from full Tesla autonomy.

Three Tesla drivers (including me) experience near-autonomous driving on busy challenging roads 

On a typical street in the suburbs in front of a typical Austin house, I got ready to do errands I put the Tesla in FSD beta mode –always remember that when you use FSD beta, your eyes must be constantly on the road and your hands on the steering wheel– and sat back and monitored the car’s driving as it began to wind around Austin streets, up and down hills and to a busy intersection where it made a right on red and merged quickly onto the 183.  After a smooth change onto busy Mopac, the car exited onto a two-lane access road and a half mile down it slowed and turned onto a private drive and took us past parked cars, and stopped at the front doors of a medical clinic.  

Several hours later, I was back in the Tesla. Tesla maps have a tab that says “hungry.”  I used this to find a new place to get food and then pressed FSD beta and the car was off. We came to a 4 lane unprotected left turn –kinda an anxiety provoker for me– and the software found a break in the traffic and moved to the middle divider.  After several cars, it made the left turn, moved over 2 more lanes, and then made a quick right.  Taking a street I had never been on before, the car turned into a parking lot and stopped in front of the restaurant. We had a GREAT meal and talked about, you guessed it, Tesla!

People across the country, from California to Texas to New York, are essentially already experiencing supervised and safe autonomy on complex unmarked roads with turns, construction, and more. 

Around the same time, in San Francisco, Omar Qazi of Whole Mars Blog, was testing FSD beta in his Tesla, he explains, “If you went and gave a few Uber rides using FSD Beta, the vast majority of the passengers would not notice that the car is being driven by software. Some people didn’t believe me so I ran an experiment… “ The first passenger had no clue at all that the car was driving itself, and when she found out she laughed with delight and called it cool! 

The second passenger didn’t notice at first but then later noticed the car was stopping when Omar did not have his feet on the brakes, He said, “so this is like a driverless car?” He was clearly delighted and also thought it was awesome.

Meanwhile, in New York state, a similar scenario was playing out.  Corey Aronson wrote, “Just did three Uber rides in a row. All zero takeover. All passengers on all rides had zero clue the car was driving itself. I can’t drive better than FSD Beta anymore, almost ever. Everyone is just on their phone getting driven by the robot.”  Corey told me the most common things people ask first about FSD beta are if it “Works without the yellow road lines?” and “Will it put the blinker on?” Of course, the answer is YES to both!

What more is needed for full Tesla autonomy?

To try to answer this, I listened carefully to what Elon Musk said during the Tesla, Q3 2022 earnings call,

“The safety that we are seeing, when the car is in FSD mode is actually significantly greater than the safety that we are seeing when it is not, which a key threshold for going to wide beta.”  – Elon Musk

Elon Musk explained that in Q4 2022, we should expect Tesla will release FSD beta to every single person that has purchased FSD. 

This means that before we see full autonomy, more people need to use FSD beta, in order to contribute valuable data to Tesla’s AI team.  The more use cases there are, the better! 

Why is Tesla leading in this area and what’s the difference between what Tesla does and what other vehicle companies are doing for autonomy?

Tesla AI team has some of the best artificial intelligence researchers in the world, so the software evolves into sharper accuracy and greater safety over a short time.  Elon Musk spoke about the great interest in Tesla AI at the Q3 2022 earnings call,

 “Our goal with that AI Day was to push recruiting, and we’ve seen a massive influx of world class artificial intelligence engineers and scientists.  It generated a tremendous amount of interest from some of the best AI researchers in the world. 

I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough.  Because I think, finally, it has become clear to the smartest AI technologists in the world, that Tesla is among the very best!” – Elon Musk

No other companies that aim to produce vehicles are like Tesla because they are relying on outdated, overpriced, and unreliable technology like Lidar and radar. 

Elon Musk has stated before that Tesla will offer their autonomous capabilities to others. Thus far, I have not found any other vehicle manufacturer outside of China to be seriously mass-manufacturing electric vehicles.

No other carmaker in the world has scaled the production of EVs like Tesla has. Tesla aims to mass-produce autonomous-capable cars.  Other manufacturers appear to be content with creating cars based on assembly techniques better suited to combustion cars and to employ “driverless systems” that are expensive, limited in speed, limited to where they are used, and cannot be scaled.


As shown in this article, Tesla vehicles are already capable of a high degree of autonomy in challenging situations including where there are no lane markings.  If you define autonomy in the high-quality way that Tesla does, Tesla is so far ahead of any other company, and when they offer Robotaxi, it’s going to apply to every situation, and it will not be limited.

It’s hard to say if autonomy will be solved for Tesla in 2023 or beyond, but I do think that the larger the fleet of vehicles are, the closer we are to it.

As a Registered Nurse, I always advocate for maximum safety for humans, and this coincides with Tesla’s mission!

  • Currently, there has to be a driver in the seat supervising because the system still needs to be safer. When the driver detects an unsafe situation, that driver takes over and that data can be sent to Tesla
  • Tesla’s AI Team, the best of its kind in the world, strives to increase safety all the time.  The smartest AI technologists in the world like to work for Tesla!
  • As safety reaches a point where it is above or equal to what the best human driver could do, we will start to see local regulatory agencies open the door to allowing Tesla to test Robotaxis on complex roads.

Austin Skyline by Christofer Sherman.

Want to read more excellent articles? I suggest…

Who Will Benefit Once Tesla Autonomy is Solved? I believe a world where autonomy is the norm is closer than we realize.  This article attempts to answer the question, who will benefit once Tesla autonomy is solved? 

If You Haven’t Used Autopilot Yet, Why Not? (3 Essentials) This article covers 3 areas,

  1. Tesla Autopilot is safer than a human driving
  2. Enabling Autopilot during a drive is easy
  3. You can use Autopilot on your daily drives and disable it anytime during a drive

Images in this article of the Model Y Midnight Cherry Red are Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

Article Exclusive to What’s Up Tesla – October 29, 2022. All Rights Reserved. “My goal as an author is to support Tesla and Elon Musk in both making lives better on earth for humans and becoming a space-faring civilization.” – Gail Alfar


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Who will Benefit once Tesla Autonomy is Solved?

Taking Al for a ride with Tesla Full Self Driving Beta, Whole Mars Catalog Youtube

Last week, my commute to work across Austin using Tesla Full Self Driving Beta version 10.69.2 was flawless! I continue to experience this daily.

I believe a world where autonomy is the norm is closer than we realize.  This article attempts to answer the question, who will benefit once Tesla autonomy is solved? 

  • Anyone who is unable or does not want to own a car
  • The Elderly and other People in need 
  • Commercial Industry
  • Mars building team 
  • Millions of people will avoid fatalities and injuries 
  • Tesla Humanoid Robot


Anyone who is unable or does not want to own a car

Tesla S Interior, credit, Tesla Gallery

“Self-driving electric cars will be all that matters. Gas car without autonomy will be like riding a horse & using a flip phone. That still happens, but it’s niche.” July 2022 – Elon Musk 

Three of my kids use Uber to get to work and school instead of owning a car, but the cost is high for this service. Going to work daily in a shared autonomous vehicle (a dedicated Robotaxi) will cost much less than today’s Uber or Lyft because an autonomous vehicle will not have to have a person at the wheel.

When costs to commute in dedicated Robotaxis become low enough, it can follow that many people will decide not to buy a vehicle.

The commute as we know it can be transformed when autonomy is solved.

Tim Urban tweeted, “The big story is hard to see when you’re inside of it. We’re all this wrong about something right now.” Tim quoted a newspaper clip from December 2000 from the Daily Mail which read “Internet may be just a passing fad as millions give up on it.” The article cited ‘experts’ from the Virtual Society project, which published a report saying that “predictions that the Internet would revolutionize the way society works have proved wildly inaccurate.”

So, as weird as it may sound, it may become niche to own a car at all in the future.  Can we imagine a future where the majority of vehicles are autonomous?  

“When the car is FSD without supervision, ie Robotaxi, you’ll be able to earn far more than monthly lease/loan cost by allowing others to use it. Managing a small fleet of Robotaxis will be a career for many & much better than driving a single car. “ October 2019 – Elon Musk

The Elderly and Other People in Need

I reached out to several Tesla owners and others for ideas, and many agree that when Tesla autonomy is solved, it can benefit the elderly and the disabled.

“I am completely blind, and would love to walk you through an average day, and how many times an autonomous vehicle would be of assistance.” rlloken 

“It will give the elderly greater independence for longer.  Also opens doors for the physically disabled folks who might not be able to drive currently.”  Wanda Hudson 

“People with physical disabilities and medical conditions such as seizure disorders & visual impairment would greatly benefit from such incredible technology. And those who depend on others to get places. For many, it will be independence they never experienced before.” IheartTesla  

Tesla autonomy has to be able to work on roads that the car hasn’t been on before and in situations where there is no connectivity. This will help many people who live in rural areas to gain independence if they cannot own a car.

War situations put people in great danger and autonomous vehicles could help bring supplies and rescue people. Tesla autonomy has to be able to work in millions of unpredictable situations and that will include places with unrest. 

Commercial Industry

Tesla Semi, credit, Tesla Gallery

Autonomous Tesla Semi will be a huge benefit to businesses and allow the trucker to perform other valuable tasks instead of tedious driving. 

Autonomy will lead to lower costs for production and delivery of all goods and food throughout the entire supply chain.  Delivering these essentials will be less expensive. 

Mars Building Team

Credit Arash Malik Cybertruck is like a Mars Rover for Earth.

Elon Musk tweeted right after the official Cybertruck unveiling in Nov 2019,

“Tesla Cybertruck (pressurized edition) will be official truck of Mars.” 

I believe that in our lifetime, humans will travel to Mars.  When the Mars building team gets there they can all benefit from autonomous Cybertrucks that will help deliver and haul in extreme conditions.  In this sense, these heavy-duty vehicles can protect human lives and help build the first outpost on Mars.

Just as there is a small window of opportunity for humans to make it to Mars, there is also a similar small window of time where full autonomy can be solved.  Now is that time. 

Millions of People will Avoid Fatalities and Injuries

Every day Tesla gets closer to solving autonomy, and we see vehicle safety improvements.  Tesla does not intend to create autonomy that is specific to keeping a car in its lane or even lane changes.  Autonomy for Tesla is a generalized solution.

"I definitely want talented people who are working on AI to consider working at Tesla because I think we’re solving an important part of AI, and one that can ultimately save millions of lives and prevent tens of millions of serious injuries by driving an order of magnitude safer than people.” 
Elon Musk (at 2022 Sharholder's Meeting)

If you have ever taken care of kids you know how frightening it is when a child runs into a busy street.  It is heartbreaking to hear about a life ending in a car crash.  

There were 35,766 fatalities and 1,593,390 injuries from crashes in 2020 (source data NHTSA) There were a total of 5,982 pedestrian fatalities from being struck by a car (source data NHTSA). Distracted driving led to 3,142 deaths in 2020, NHTSA reported, “The number of fatalities in distraction-affected crashes, i.e., a crash involving at least one driver who was distracted, was 3,142 or 8.1 percent of all fatalities in 2020. This represents a 0.7-percent increase from 3,119 in 2019.” – Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2020 

Tesla expects the safety level of autonomous cars to be 10 times safer than non-autonomous cars.

Safety is emphasized in this excerpt from Tesla’s blog

“In the US, there is one automotive fatality every 86 million miles across all vehicles from all manufacturers. 
For Tesla, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities, every 320 million miles in vehicles equipped with Autopilot hardware. 
If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident. 
Tesla Autopilot does not prevent all accidents – such a standard would be impossible – but it makes them much less likely to occur. 
It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists. 
No one knows about the accidents that didn’t happen, only the ones that did. 
The consequences of the public not using Autopilot, because of an inaccurate belief that it is less safe, would be extremely severe. 
There are about 1.25 million automotive deaths worldwide. 
If the current safety level of a Tesla vehicle were to be applied, it would mean about 900,000 lives saved per year. 
We expect the safety level of autonomous cars to be 10 times safer than non-autonomous cars.”

When Elon Musk spoke at the ONS 2022 conference in Norway, he emphasized the importance of having Tesla cars being able to do self-driving when he answered the question, “what keeps you up at night?”  he stated,

“But I am fundamentally an engineer or a technologist and so the two technologies I am focused on to ideally, get done before the end of the year are getting our Starship to orbit, which I think is important for expanding consciousness beyond earth and life beyond Earth. And then, having the Tesla cars being able to do self driving.
So have self driving and wide release at least In the USA, and hopefully, potentially in Europe, depending on regulatory approval.” – Elon Musk

Tesla Humanoid Robot

Tesla Humanoid Robot visual from Tesla AI Day 2021 August 19, 2021

Tesla is developing a helpful humanoid robot that will rely on the same technology that is available in every vehicle. At Tesla AI Day 2021, Elon Musk said,

It's around 5’ 8”, has sort of a screen where the head is for useful information, it’s otherwise basically got an autopilot system in it so its got cameras, about eight cameras, full self-driving computer, and makes use of all of the same tools that we use in the car. 

Things that I think are really hard about having a useful humanoid robot is, can it navigate through the world without being explicitly trained?  I mean without explicit line-by-line instructions? 

Tesla AI Day Part 2 on September 30 will be very interesting as it will reveal the incredible progress as well as the challenges of building a humanoid robot whose purpose is to help humans in a world built by humans.


This quote from Tim Urban invites us all to imagine the future. “The big story is hard to see when you’re inside of it. We’re all this wrong about something right now.”

When Tesla Autonomy is solved, people of all ages can benefit. This article highlights these 6 ways:

  • The elderly and also the many talented people with disabilities that make it so they cannot drive
  • People who live in areas of unrest or war and even in rural areas
  • All of us because we depend on the commercial industry and its supply chain. When this becomes driven by autonomy, it will usher in a new era
  • We will go to Mars one day, and having an autonomous fleet of pressurized Cybertrucks there will help get the hard work done
  • Fatalities and injuries will be reduced by a large margin, saving millions of lives. Tesla expects the safety level of autonomous cars to be 10 times safer than non-autonomous cars
  • People will benefit from a high-functioning Telsa bot fleet, which relies on the same tools as Tesla cars

Will you benefit once Tesla Autonomy is solved?

Austin Texas Sunset by Christofer Sherman.

This article is part one of a series.  It is written before  “Tesla AI Day II.” We’ll look at this question again after the September 30 event. Tesla and SpaceX remain the top two most desirable places to work for engineers and hire some of the smartest people in the world to work on their AI Team.

If you loved this article, you may also love…

5 Takeaways from Tesla’s 2022 Shareholder Meeting, read what Elon Musk said at the August 2022 Shareholders Meeting about Tesla Autonomy and the Tesla Bot.

Read Elon Musk’s essay on technology for a better future which is Elon Musk’s entire essay composed for China Cyberspace magazine. In it, he discusses the incredible goals Tesla has for the Tesla Bot.

Elon Musk Interview with Xenia Wickett in Norway (ONS 2022 Stavanger Conference August 29th) Less than 25 min long and packed with information (full interview) this is the readable version of this fabulous interview, in which Elon Musk got to the main points very quickly. Amazing!

Exclusive to What’s Up Tesla – This article was created by Gail Alfar with the goal to inspire you to support the important advancement of generalized autonomy as a force for good. The header photo is by @BLKMDL3 with permission. All Rights Reserved. September 18, 2022


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