Tesla’s New FSD Beta Is a Make-or-Break Bet on AI

This could be the fully automated driving system we've been waiting for. Or... not.

A Tesla using the latest beta version of Full Self-Driving
Whole Mars Catalog / YouTube

Tesla’s latest update to its Full Self-Driving system is a big one.

FSD Beta v12 is starting to roll out to non-employees, and into the hands of early customers. This time the update comes with one major change: “a single end-to-end neural network trained on millions of video clips,” instead of the previous method of self-driving that involves running on lines of code.

While it’s too early to say what the impact of that shift will be, the switch to using more AI is easily Tesla’s latest and greatest shot at offering a self-driving system that can handle complex driving situations better. That means navigating around emergency vehicles that take up half the street or rolling through a speed bump more comfortably.

Here’s everything you need to know.

How Does This FSD Beta Differ?

Tesla has been promising a fully automated driving system for a while, launching its FSD beta back in 2020. Since then, the FSD and Autopilot features have had a spotty history, including investigations from federal agencies following fatal incidents. Several years down the line, we still don’t have a Tesla that can truly drive by itself since Full Self-Driving is considered a Level 2 system.

While that label isn’t going to change, Tesla could seriously improve the automated part of driving with this latest FSD Beta v12 update. According to the release notes, the neural network will replace the hundreds of thousands of code written by programmers. This means that any model using this version of FSD will rely on Tesla’s AI to get you through city streets.

Previously, the FSD feature could get stumped when it comes to specific driving scenarios that make sense to human drivers but not to a system that’s just following programmed code. Leaning more into its neural network and AI, Tesla is betting that FSD Beta v12 will actually be able to learn from its trials more readily and handle the many complex scenarios driving in a city can throw at it.

Is This FSD Beta Any Safer?

That’s all just speculation at the moment, though. We’ve yet to see enough proof or examples of people using FSD Beta v12 to make a definitive judgment on it. YouTuber Whole Mars Catalog has recently uploaded several unedited drives operating a previous version of FSD Beta available to employees, demonstrating that the latest beta can handle driving in the rain and at night in San Francisco.

It’s too early to tell if Tesla’s FSD Beta v12 will be better, but the company is putting a lot of faith in its AI systems to be an improvement over the existing design. In turn, we’re trusting Tesla to deliver an automated driving experience that is smart, but above all else, safer. Of course, other EV makers are hot on the heels of Tesla, even with a Level 3 certified option.

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