Tesla Hacker Calls FSD Blatant Cash Grab Scam, Advises People to Avoid It

Tesla Hacker calls FSD a blatant cash grab scam as it currently is 23 photos
Photo: via TR/Taylor Ogan/Twitter
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The best critics of anything are those with a deep knowledge of how the criticized things work. That made Jason Hughes a reputable source of information in the Tesla world. The owner of 057 Technology makes a living repairing these EVs. His latest target was Full Self-Driving (FSD), which had a price increase in September. It now costs $15,000 for those who want to apply for the beta software. We say “apply” because those paying for it have no idea if they will ever use it, which is just one of the objections the Tesla hacker made in his Twitter thread about it.
Hughes classified FSD as a “blatant cash grab scam,” as it is. Also known as Tesla Hacker, he said it is ludicrous that Tesla increased “the price of a product you can't even actually get when you pay for it multiple times (literally 5x the original cost now)." Even if customers could pay $15,000 for FSD and start using it right away, Hughes would still have issues with it, even if only a few.

The first one is that Tesla has sold the software since October 2016, when the company said that all cars sold from that point on would be ready to become robotaxis. Elon Musk promised the same thing on April 22, 2019, at Tesla Autonomy Day. According to the Tesla CEO, all its EVs made from that day on would have a computer called HW 3.0 instead of the previous one, HW 2.5.

Tesla HW 3\.0
Photo: Tesla
That didn’t happen. The company is still delivering vehicles with HW 2.5 in multiple countries. It tried to do the same in China, but the Chinese government demanded Tesla give customers what it said they would have by recalling and replacing the wrong computers.

To all other customers worldwide, Tesla just says they will get the proper hardware at no extra cost when they are eligible to use FSD. Hughes said some owners are actually having to pay $1,000 or more to get the right hardware in their cars. To make things worse, Tesla decides who gets to use FSD. So far, only people based in the U.S. have access to the beta software, but they have to have a specific score in a beta app called Safety Score Beta. We’ll talk about that later.

The other issue Hughes would have if all FSD buyers could use the software immediately is that “it's still a complete gimmick.” The Tesla Hacker stated that in his “experience in non-hwy (highway) use(,) it's like teaching a teen to drive... You have to be even more focused and attentive than you'd normally be.” In his words, that “ends up more draining per mile driven than just driving yourself.”

Tesla Promises All Its Cars Will Have FSD\-Ready Hardware in 2016
Photo: Tesla
Hughes didn’t even mention that FSD has a pretty bizarre ownership model: it does not belong to the car it is associated with nor to the people paying for it. If an FSD buyer sells the car with the software, they do not get to keep it if they buy a new Tesla. The vehicle's new owner also does not get it: it simply vanishes. The only logical conclusion possible is that only Tesla owns the software. Anything you pay for it – a monthly subscription fee or $15,000 – is just a use license.

The problem is that the beta software has been “for sale” since 2016. The Tesla Hacker is amazed that “there are literally cars that bought FSD at purchase that have waited so long they are now out of warranty.” Tesla only started allowing people to have the software that would some day turn their cars into robotaxis on October 8, 2021, with FSD Beta 10.2.

Hughes asked: “How can you pay for a feature, and your car reach EOL (end-of-life) without ever having access to it? Insane!” And there was still a catch: only 1,000 FSD "buyers" with a perfect score with Safety Score Beta would get FSD at the time. The beta app is still the criteria for granting access to the beta software, something that Hughes classifies as "insane." The Tesla Hacker asked: "You mean I have to pay five figures for a feature, then I have to play games and jump through hoops to have even a chance at getting what I paid for?" He also stated that if he wanted to “play games and gamble” with his money, he’d “go to Vegas.”

FSD Video Shows Near\-Head\-On Collision Avoided by Human Driver
Photo: YouTube/Philip Koopman
From a customer perspective, the Tesla Hacker is more than right to be concerned about these FSD aspects. The other side of the coin is that autonomous vehicle (AV) experts, traffic safety advocates, and other critics classify FSD access as a safety nightmare and want to prevent it at all costs. To start with, it is not by chance that Tesla investors always want to make sure that all FSD references are followed by a word that frees Tesla from responsibility: Beta.

That means the software is not ready for production: it is still being tested. As such, traffic safety experts argue that only engineers and trained drivers should have access to it. According to them, regular drivers should only get FSD when there is nothing beta about it anymore. That said, they urge the U.S. government to take measures and remove FSD from public roads.

Although only a fraction of FSD buyers has access to the software so far, they are already more than 100,000 people. Acting like a drunk driver – as some users suggest it does – has become the best safety feature of the software. AV experts state that, if FSD was minimally competent, that would cause overreliance, a factor that has been ruled as crucial in some Autopilot fatal crashes. Ralph Nader asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “to order that the FSD technology be removed in every Tesla.” The billionaire Dan O’Dowd is spending serious money on a national campaign to have FSD banned.

Tesla Model 3 on FSD almost hits cyclist while influencers try to defend it
Photo: HyperChange/YouTube
NHTSA is already investigating this software and also Autopilot. In June, it upgraded its Preliminary Evaluation (PE) of Autopilot to an Engineering Analysis (EA) – the last step before a recall. If the safety regulator orders Tesla to remove Autopilot from its cars, FSD may follow suit, leaving all the people who paid up to $15,000 for it without the feature. Tesla may have to reimburse these customers should that happen. Hughes did not mention these legal concerns in his tweets.

What really seems to bother him is that Tesla is getting money for something it does not deliver to most buyers. If anyone bought an expensive product and never received it, they would undoubtedly try to cancel the purchase. The difference is that Tesla does not sell a product: it sells a beta promise by claiming it will be more expensive when it is ready – which it has never been since 2016 despite Musk’s recurrent promises.

Elon Musk Promises All Tesla Cars Will Have FSD\-Ready Hardware in 2019
Photo: Tesla
Hughes sums up his take with the following sentences about FSD:

“Is it actually useful today? No. Is it actually available at all? No. Is it worth $15k as-is? No freakin' way. At $15k, it needs to do everything, and I shouldn't be responsible if it screws up. At least at the original $3k price(,) the driver-is-responsible aspect would be ok. Spending $15k to maybe get access to be able to babysit some software that tries to drive for you, while also penalizing you if you don't pay full attention to what it's doing, AND making you responsible for when it screws up... seems pretty backwards to me.”

Finally, he anticipates the backlash from Tesla investors that will berate him “for even suggesting Tesla's done something wrong.” Considering many have their life savings in Tesla stock, there is nothing else you could expect from them.

Tesla Autopilot and FSD
Photo: Tesla
An excellent example of that conflict is a discussion a Tesla investor had with the Tesla Hacker. Hughes heard from this guy that he didn’t “want people buying FSD at today’s absurdly low prices, unless if (sic) they believe in the autonomous future and want to participate in building it.” In other words, this Tesla investor wants FSD only to have buyers that feed the narrative Elon Musk defined as crucial for the company’s valuation. According to the CEO, FSD is “basically the difference between Tesla being worth a lot of money and being worth basically zero.”

Hughes qualified that as “one of the most ridiculous takes possible on the matter” and said that “nothing Tesla's produced to-date is capable of, no matter how much software they release, being a driverless robotaxi. The hardware is simply not capable of that level of safety.” As somebody that makes a living fixing these things, he deserves more credit than someone who depends on stock prices going up to make a profit.

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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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