Tesla wants you to pay $100 a month for its self-driving features

The company says it may add full-self driving as a subscription service before the end of 2020.

Bloomberg/Bloomberg/Getty Images

In between Elon Musk’s rage on an earnings call earlier this week at the ongoing shelter-in-place and stay-at-home restrictions that have shuttered some Tesla facilities, an intriguing snippet of news came to light. Tesla is planning to offer “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) by the end of this year, and those that haven’t paid the $7,000 for it upfront will be able to subscribe for an estimated $100 a month, Electrek reports.

“I think we will offer Full Self-Driving as a subscription service, but it will be probably towards the end of this year,” Musk said on the call, adding that "it will still make sense to buy FSD as an option as in our view," because "buying FSD is an investment in the future."

Look, Mom, no hands — Tesla is the industry leader when it comes to in-car software. So much so, it’s giving rival automaker Volkswagen’s CEO “headaches.” The California-based company pioneered over-the-air updates for its cars, much like the updates consumers make to their smartphones. It’s known for including hardware it may only unlock via software upgrades later, and already offers options like the ability to add increased acceleration via a software update for a once-off fee of $2,000.

The price of progress — As Electrek explains, as the FSD option costs $7,000 if purchased outright, that works out to $92 a month if divvied up over a 72-month loan, which is a fairly standard loan period when financing a car. Considering Tesla is promising additional features and will want to make sure it’s not losing money on a per-month split — and also not penalizing those customers who have paid for FSD in full despite it being a deferred feature — it looks like $100 a month would be the minimum for a subscription-based version of the service.

Will it be worth it? — While $100 a month (or $1,200 a year) sounds like a lot at first blush, whether it’s worth paying for depends on how much functionality FSD actually offers. That’s going to be limited both by Tesla’s tech — it famously eschews LiDAR for camera-based autonomous systems — and regulations in different states or countries. Even if it can achieve high-level vehicle autonomy, that's only useful in a region where it's allowed.

If FSD lets Tesla drivers kick their feet up and read a book or log some billable hours of work while their Tesla guides them down the 405 during rush hour, that fee may seem entirely reasonable. But considering its likely FSD will still require the driver’s attention for a few years yet, it may prove to have limited appeal outside of Tesla’s die-hard early adopters… and they’ve probably coughed up for FSD already.