Tesla Owners, Face It: You Are Not Testing Full Self-Driving

Mahmood Hikmet explains why FSD use is not proper testing 6 photos
Photo: Mahmood Hikmet
Mahmood Hikmet explains why FSD use is not proper testingMahmood Hikmet explains why FSD use is not proper testingMahmood Hikmet explains why FSD use is not proper testingMahmood Hikmet explains why FSD use is not proper testingMahmood Hikmet explains why FSD use is not proper testing
The most common excuse you hear from people who accept using Tesla’s beta software is that they are helping the company perform tests. This would allow Tesla to offer 1 million robotaxis in 2020. Already at the end of 2021 and with no robotaxis in sight, Mahmood Hikmet asks if that is really testing and gives a technical perspective about that in his latest video.
This is the first of three questions Hikmet wants to ask and answer on tape before he can move on to other news about autonomous driving. For the question of whether FSD and Autopilot are really being tested, the answer is that there’s no testing whatsoever going on from an engineering point of view. Hikmet explains in detail why that is the case with the computer software and systems engineering development process in mind.

There are three major steps involving software validation: design, coding, and testing. This is called Iterative Engineering Design Process, and failures are expected. When they happen, you get back to design, coding, and testing all over again. This cycle’s goal is to come to a point in which no more corrections are necessary, and you end up with a stable release that people can actually use.

For that to happen, you have to have people trained to determine exactly what went wrong with the tests to make an accurate report to the design team. When it comes to cars, they also have to be trained to avoid risks, which are pretty evident with vehicles that weigh more than 2 tons and can accelerate so quickly. Cars are part of what people call safety-critical systems, and the Tesla crash in Paris shows precisely why that is so.

Without that feedback, developers have no idea what to improve. Tesla owners think they can click some buttons to help the company check what is wrong. The problem is that this is a one-way communication process in which owners don’t even know if Tesla checked what they marked as something to improve. It gets worse: when a new deployment is ready, these regular customers have no idea if they can test the issue again or if they should avoid it until it is adequately addressed.

The engineer also clarified that a drive with zero disengagements is so rare that, when it is achieved, Tesla fans use that as proof that FSD is pure autonomous driving. Apart from being autonowashing, that’s also cherry-picking: the current level of reliability of FSD is so low that it will likely present multiple disengagement situations.

That means you can’t say you are testing anything from a software development point of view without following the steps Hikmet mentioned and without proper communication with the developers. At best, you could try to say that Tesla is doing usability tests, but that demands a stable release, which neither Autopilot nor FSD is. Both are beta and come with a disclaimer that puts all the blame on drivers should anything go wrong.

Summing up, there’s no testing going on with FSD or Autopilot in the hands of regular customers, not even from a usability perspective. Hikmet did not even have to mention that Tesla’s move to suppress radars and go with a solely camera-based system made all data collected from customers before that change useless.

In the following videos, the engineer will tackle safety and legal issues with this pretense FSD testing, and we can already anticipate the conclusions. For anyone willing to understand what is going on with FSD, they are almost mandatory: Hikmet calls things by what they really are.

This video shows that the only engineering going on with what Tesla fans call “testing” is the construction of a narrative. It consists of trying to convince people that what Elon Musk promised years ago will eventually be achieved.

Such a narrative is something these fans also need as Tesla investors: if share prices fall, they lose money. In other words, be careful with the videos and reports that say Tesla’s beta software saves lives and makes a vehicle drive itself. If there’s anything they are saving for sure, it is the financial lives of the people that want you to believe they are testing anything.

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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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